Aug 17, 2011

The Achievement Gap Is Not "Nonsense" [And She Didn't Say It Was]

An education blogger recently posted audio of teacher-advocate Diane Ravitch at the "Save our Schools" conference in Washington late last month in which she makes the following statement about the black-white achievement gap:
Since the first NAEP test in the early 1970s, the black-white achievement gap has been cut in half. So when they tell you our schools are declining, tell them nonsense, you don’t know what you're talking about.
Please see below for the reaction of George Parker, former President of the Washington Teachers Union and Senior Fellow at StudentsFirst:

I have always viewed Diane Ravitch as a knowledgeable advocate. However, I was extremely disappointed when Ms. Ravitch recently dismissed as "nonsense" claims that the persistent and stubborn black-white achievement gap is a sign that our nation's schools are in decline and represents a systematic failure of how we approach education.

As a math teacher for over a quarter of a century in the DC Public Schools and former President of the Washington Teachers Union, I have felt the existence of the achievement gap first-hand and seen its devastating consequences play out in our communities year after year. I strongly disagree with Ms. Ravitch’s "nonsense" assessment. It is not "nonsense" to believe the persistent and stubborn achievement gap that stigmatizes African-American children as "less academically prepared" is a glaring sign of systematic problems with our nation's education system. Nor is it "nonsense" to think that there is a fundamental problem in how we approach education that calls for sweeping change when only 9% of black, male eight-graders read at grade level.

Indeed, 20-plus point gaps in reading and math scores across age groups and proficiency gaps that have grown over the last 15 years are not just signs of deep-seated problems but should add a sense of urgency for much-needed systematic change. This ongoing achievement disparity clearly demonstrates that our schools are not successfully serving the educational needs of all our kids. The futures of poor, minority children are significantly dimmed as a result of our continued failure to address the achievement gap with the urgency it deserves.

I believe Ms. Ravitch's statement is a disservice to the parents, teachers, and many schools districts around the country that are struggling to meet the diverse needs of their students. As a life-long educator, it is insulting to have the very real student achievement gap dismissed and minimized in this way. But an even greater tragedy would be for us to continue with the status quo that got us here in the first place and fail to make the sweeping reform necessary to ensure our nation's schools work for every child.

No comments:

Post a Comment