Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Why we must understand both the achievement gap and the underlying opportunity gap

John H. Jackson
President and CEO of the Schott Foundation for Public Education

Huffington Post blogger Roderick Carey  has sparked a compelling – and necessary – discussion in a series of posts, which he is calling “Faith for Change,” that he has begun publishing about the achievement gap.

In his post, Mr. Carey cogently makes the point that until we truly understand the achievement gap – what it is, and what it isn’t – we will only scratch at the surface for real solutions. He writes:

“To fully understand the achievement gap, it is important to consider the numerous factors that contribute to its existence. Because so many factors influence the achievement gap, numerous and all-encompassing interventions are needed in order to even partially ameliorate it. In our 160-character or less, vivid-image and drama-laden media culture, many of us have been duped into thinking that we have grasp of the achievement gap.”

Understanding that the OPPORTUNITY GAP is the root cause of the achievement gap is absolutely an essential part of getting our federal and state leaders on the right track to providing an equitable education for all children. For the past two decades, these leaders have been fixated on standards and testing to close the achievemen­t gaps, but if we had been just as committed to reducing the OPPORTUNITY GAP from the start we would not have such a stark achievement gap today.

To build a stronger, safer and more prosperous nation, we must commit ourselves to ELIMINATING the opportunity gap by guaranteeing ALL children, regardless of where they live, have access to these four fundamental building blocks: high-quality early-childhood education, highly prepared and effective teachers, rigorous college-prep curriculum and equitable instructional materials and policies.

It is people like Mr. Carey – an educational researcher and Ph.D. candidate in the department of Teaching, Learning, Policy and Leadership at University of Maryland College Park, where he specializes in Minority and Urban Education – who are on the frontlines of this march to guarantee all children an equitable opportunity to learn, regardless of where they live.

We at the National Opportunity to Learn Campaign encourage you to read Mr. Carey’s blog and join the discussion and the fight to protect each child’s civil right to a quality public education.

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