One common assumption that is used to explain the achievement gap is that the parents of low-income families have lower expectations for the academic achievement of their children. I strongly disagree with this statement. All parents want their children to do well. All parents what the best for their children. At my school, many parents move their families from Mexico to the United States. They abandon everything they have, their homes, jobs, and relatives, so that their children can receive a better education. They make this sacrifice so that their children can succeed. These parents expect great things from their children. They expect their children to become doctors and lawyers. The dreams of the parents do not always come true, but that is not because of lower expectations.
A second assumption that is used to explain the achievement gap states schools in economically depressed areas have fewer resources and are ill equipped to meet the needs of students they serve. This is not the case at my school. Even though I teach in the 3rd poorest county in the nation, my school is well funded. Our average class size is around 20 students. All science and math teachers have access to a class set of graphing calculators along with a document camera and LCD projector. We have the funding to offer a number of classes for English language learners and recent immigrants along with an extensive after school tutorial program. But in spite of all of this, the achievement gap still exists at my school.
The article “Poverty, Not Race, Holds Back Urban Students” from this week’s learning resources talks about the stereotypes put on low-income minority students. One stereotype says that poor minority students do worse on standardized tests. In order to combat this, schools with a large low-income/minority population (like my school) spend more time teaching to the standardized test. Whereas this will improve standardized test scores, it also has the potential to harm the students in the long run because they miss out on other important curriculum. I find this to be the case at my school.
I think the biggest thing schools and teachers can do to support the educational needs of all students is to simply teach the required curriculum. Last year as a chemistry teacher I taught a semester of chemistry and then a semester of general science (to help students pass the state test). The passing rate of my students was well above the state average. However, my students are not ready for college. If I were allowed to teach my chemistry curriculum for the entire year I am sure my passing rate for the state test would drop, but my students would be more prepared for college. I would have had more time to teach problem solving and critical thinking skills. The students at my school desperately need these two things.
Bainbridge, W. L., & Lasley, T. J. (2002, July 28). Poverty, not race, holds back urban students. Columbus Dispatch. Retrieved from http://www.schoolmatch.com/articles/poverty.htm