Monday, February 23, 2009

Achievement Gap Discovered

Add Florida middle schools to the list of locales that have officially discovered the achievement gap and are sweating over what to do about it. As last week's Orlando Sentinel reported, many middle schools are offering high school level classes to their students, giving them an opportunity to take more challenging course work. It turns out that those classes are made up predominantly of white students. And the achievement gap has been discovered.

Here's the part that makes me shake my head. Now that Florida officials have discovered the achievement gap, they're trying to decide what to do about it. One of the solutions they're apparently considering is doing away with this program. What? Talk about treating the symptom without going to the root of the problem.

The real issue (as I read the article) is not that this advanced classes program is so discriminatory in who it accepts that only white kids get in. Far from it. Rather, the problem is that by the time the kids reach the age of eligibility for the program there's already a gap in academic preparedness that favors white students. Getting rid of the program is not the answer, academic and social interventions that prevent the achievement gap from opening is where the answer lies.

Look at it this way. If I get on the scale and think that I weigh too much, I shouldn't just throw the scale out. I should focus on eating better and exercising more. Getting rid of the scale doesn't solve my problem, it just keeps me from being reminded of it.

Getting rid of these advanced level courses doesn't close the achievement gap, it just hides it. The real problem would still be there.

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