Achievement Gaps in Education

“Any serious educational initiative that hopes to positively impact the achievement gap must begin with an early social and emotional focus.” (Graves) In a culture where success is greatly determined by scores on Iowa Tests of Basic Skills, ACT scores and grades received, students who lack academic achievement have a hard path leading to their future. The Threat of Stereotype and Meta-Analysis of the Effect of Early Education Interventions on Cognitive and Social Development highlight the effect of stereotypes, the need for quality early childhood programs and the involvement of educators on the achievement of students.

Stereotypes of low achievement, racial prejudice and personal preference are felt by students starting at a young age as ‘higher standards’ are formed, before they are given a chance to even step in the door. The Threat of Stereotype,challenges educators not only to look at early achievement as the single deciding factor for academic lack of achievement, but examine prejudices students face. (Aron-son) Children who are susceptible to the stereotype threat are the students who care the most and are extremely invested in high achievement. As a future educator, I can understand and appreciate the struggle these students go through to undermine expectations and repel stereotypes. Sometimes, it is the learners’ immense pain to prove a stereotype wrong that results in personal disappointment as test scores return low due to nervousness. The Threat of Stereotype, calls the attention of educators to examine and challenge us to look beyond generalizations seen, but, instead, genuinely nurture every child to actualize their dreams through educational opportunities.

Meta-Analysis of the Effect of Early Education Interventions on Cognitive and Social Development,discusses the importance of early childhood programs in the lives of children to develop their cognitive and affective domains. As a future early childhood educator, I hope to reach all students through proper program design and a variety of experiences to develop the cognitive realm. More importantly, I hope to reach children in a way that no study can seem to pin down, through ‘designing interventions at multiple levels with multiple components.’ (Camille) In class, we discussed the importance of knowing your students. While Camille and his team in this article find ‘designing interventions’ for multiple needs to lack evidence on effectiveness and use; I believe it is key for Developmentally Appropriate Practices. When educators reach each child in a unique, personal way, I believe cognitive, social and academic skills will follow.


 As educators, how can we further the work of quality preschool programs, or decrease the effect of stereotypes? As Ronald Lally stated, referring to the Oregon Head Start program, “any serious educational initiative that hopes to positively impact the achievement gap must begin with an early social and emotional focus.” While I agree with the initiative for quality programs, equal education and the need for students to develop in all areas to decrease achievement gaps; I believe we must also, as stated in The Threat of Stereotypein the trans formative power of educators. (Aronson) Stereotypes and prejudices cause achievement gaps, because when a student knows nothing better is expected of them, why should they expect any better of themselves?

 Many factors contribute to achievement gaps such as health, socioeconomic status, stereotypes and early achievement. Each factor must be considered as a threat to the achievement of students and cared for to ensure the greatest chance of success. Sometimes, one of the factors is lack on involvement in a preschool program to provide a strong foundation. Sometimes, achievement gaps in education are caused from poor education within a poor-quality early childhood education center. Or maybe even a teacher’s lack of passion for children in an elementary or early childhood experience.

 As a future educator, I will seek to weaken the threat of stereotypes through one-on-one attention to cognitive and diverse needs. I will seek to provide a strong foundation of early childhood education, while seeking to supply equal opportunities for all young people. Allowing for equality and education is essential, as students move beyond stereotypes and onto a brighter future. Educators, students, parents and the community must impact the achievement gap through early social and emotional focus and by weakening the presence of achievement gaps.

Deepa Singh
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