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It was the Covid-19 pandemic that spread across the world in 2020 that once again got all the parents worried about the state of education in the country. Given the fact that like all other institutions, the schools would have to close down so that the virus wouldn’t spread further, all the students and teachers had to find different ways to continue their education. Even though all the measures were taken to continue online, there are still concerns that students did not do much learning in those months in quarantine. Yet—due to many factors—this is the reality for many children. This phenomenon is described as the achievement gap. What it is and what impacts it, we’ll explain below.

Achievement Gap Definition

The term achievement gap is described as the educational attainment disparity among different communities of people. The achievement gap is present at all levels of education—from kindergarten to postgraduate studies. This gap has a negative impact on the individuals and the society as a whole as students will miss out on great career opportunities due to the lack of education and qualification. On the other hand, society will suffer the lack of contributions that could otherwise be leveraged if there wouldn’t have been a gap present. We can typically find evidence of the said gap in the school measurements of success, such as college enrollment rates, test scores, and dropout rates. 

Who experiences achievement gaps?

According to the National Education Association, the following groups are the ones that experience notable academic achievement gaps:

 

  • Students coming from low-income families
  • Students with disabilities
  • Racial and ethnic minorities 
  • English language learners

 

What Impacts the Achievement Gap?

By now, you must be thinking about what is driving this achievement gap in education. Well, there are a few factors which, when together, can contribute to it staying wide open. These factors fall into three categories:

District or school factors

Under district or school factors fall elements like: 

 

  • Unequal levels of school funding
  • Inequitable distribution of qualified and experienced instructors
  • Lack of articulated curriculum
  • Lack of inclusion of the student’s background in the school culture and curriculum
  • Inconsistent tracking process for students who need special education, are gifted, or should be placed in an advanced classroom 

Classroom factors

Part of the classroom factors that aid achievement gap to stay wide open are:

 

  • Inferred bias and racism
  • Lack of belief in the students’ ability or readiness to learn
  • Inconstant use of assessments and interventions for struggling students
  • Lack of development in culturally responsive teaching practices

Student factors

As for the student factors contributing to the achievement gap, here are a few of them:

 

  • Stereotypes
  • Social and experience gaps
  • Internalized prejudices and beliefs on a community’s limited ability or opportunity

What Can Be Done to Close the Achievement Gap?

Now that we understand what the achievement gap is and the factors that contribute to it still being present, let’s get into what we can all do as a society. 

Increasing instructional time

It’s a no-brainer, the more the students struggle, the more time they need with their teacher. That’s why increasing instructional time is one of the ways which, when used, can aid in closing the achievement gap. The teacher determines the way the instruction is delivered; however, the instruction should target the needs of the students, their learning styles, and be explicit and scaffolded. It will surely be of high intensity, more repetitive, and be more detailed.

Monitoring progress on a monthly basis

Once the instructional time is increased, the teachers will have to continually track and monitor the students’ progress. Only by doing so can they know whether their students are doing well and where they could need improvement. Through different assessments, the instructors can identify their strong and weak areas and then intervene accordingly. 

Fostering a relationship between school and the students’ families

One of the most critical steps to closing the achievement gap is for the school, parents, and the community to maintain a good relationship and cooperate with this common mission in mind. The family’s involvement, parents to be precise, will undoubtedly impact the students’ academic performance.

Motivating and engaging students

One way teachers can help close the gap is by using methods, technology, and lesson plans that actually match the students’ current skill set. Only by targeting the skills they already developed can they get motivated to build their way up from there. Otherwise, their engagement will suffer and decrease. 

 

All in all, the achievement gap has ever since been present. While measures have been taken to put an end to it, this hasn’t still happened. One thing is for sure, we all have an obligation to do something in our power to help close this gap that might be affecting our future.

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