Tag Archives: Achievement Gap

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Educators’ Disbelief in the Academic Potential of Students of Color

One of the reasons for persistent racial achievement gaps in our schools is differences between what leaders and teachers believe to be the achievement potential of White students and students of color. Rhetoric espousing belief that all children can learn at high levels can be heard in every school and school district in America. That rhetoric, unfortunately, does not yet match reality. There remain school leaders and teachers who believe Black and/or Latino students are incapable of learning at the same levels as White children. group of african college friends

Leaders’ and teachers’ disbelief in the potential of students of color rarely looks like blatant racism. It rarely sounds like leaders and educators saying to students of color that they are less academically capable than their White counterparts (although that does still happen in some limited instances). Nevertheless, their disbelief is unmistakable.

But in 2015, that disbelief most often manifests itself as failure to challenge students of color to meet the same rigorous academic standards that they expect White students to meet or exceed. Their disbelief looks like hard and soft sorting mechanisms that systematically channel students of color into tracks that will limit their academic and profession. That disbelief looks like allowing students of color to decide whether they will or will not work in class that day/semester/year. That disbelief looks like coddling students of color rather than challenging them to achieve academically at high levels. That disbelief looks like pushing students of color to the absolute limit of their abilities on the athletic field, while challenging them to do little more than show up to the academic classroom. That disbelief looks like failure to challenge colleagues and administrators who write and implement policies that perpetuate the status quo for students of color in schools and institutions of higher education.

While leaders’ and teachers’ disbelief in the academic potential of students of color is different from calling them racially insensitive names or preventing them from enrolling in predominantly White schools and institutions, it is just as dangerous as the blatantly racist actions of the past. And that continued disbelief in the academic potential of children of color is partly responsible for the racial achievement gaps that persist in America’s schools.

ACT Scores Show Black Students in Kentucky are in Serious Trouble

Last week the ACT Scores for Kentucky’s high school class of 2012 were released. The results show that while their composite average has increased slightly from a 19.2 for last year’s class to a 19.5 for this year’s class, no rx Kentucky seniors’ scores still lag behind the national average composite score of 21.1. But possibly of even greater concern for this audience is that the gap between White and Black students in Kentucky has increased.

Average scores for White children in Kentucky have increased from from 22.1 in 2008 to 22.4 in 2012. Average scores for Asian students have risen from 22.9 to 23.6. Average scores for Hispanic students have risen from 18.7 to 18.9. The average scores for Black children in Kentucky since 2008 have been substantially lower than any other group of students. Black students in 2008 had an average composite score of 16.9, check and in the last four years has increased by only one tenth of a point to 17.0  That means the gap between White and Black students’ scores has increased from 5.2 points in 2008 to 5.4 points in 2012.

 To put those numbers into perspective for you, buy  that means in Kentucky’s class of 2012 only 5% of Black students have met ACT college-readiness standards in all four subject areas. That is compared to 42% of Asian students, 32% of White students, and 13% of Hispanic students who met ACT college-readiness standards in all four subject areas. To be clear, none of those percentages are particularly good, but the fact that such a small percentage of Black students have met college-readiness standards in Kentucky in 2012 is pretty scary to me. 

Students and parents should understand that many of the jobs that existed in previous generations do not and will not exist in the US for today’s students. The impact of globalization and technology have greatly changed the opportunities that will be available for students. Understanding that, it troubles me how often I still hear adults debating whether or not children need to on to college to lead productive lives. I may upset some folks here but I don’t care. The truth is that if students do not go on to pursue some type of post-secondary education, either earning a degree in a field where they will be able to get a job paying a living wage, or going on to a community or technical college to learn a skill or trade, they will be left on the outside looking in on the 21st Century US economy. If anyone tells you anything different, they are either uninformed about these changes or they are choosing to mislead you. Previous generations of students may not have gone to college and everything may have worked out just fine for them, but the American economy has changed.

The just of all this is simple; unless we can make some pretty significant changes in a lot of areas quickly, Black children in Kentucky are going to be in a whole lot of trouble.

Remember, change begins with you. Be empowered my friends!