Achievement Gap

You Don't Have to Tell Me About the Achievement Gap, I Live It

Have you ever heard of the  achievement gap? Many minority students, such as African-Americans, Hispanics and Native Americans usually fall lower in test scores and grades compared to their White and Asian counterparts. Every column, blog or article that I’ve read on this topic has information that has never come from a African-American, let alone an African-American male teen standpoint. But there is a voice that should be heard—mine. A recent Stanford study on achievement gaps shows that African-Americans perform worse academically when it comes to standardized tests, class work, attendance and enrollment in honors, Advanced Placement (AP) and college classes. This is very important because [pullquote position="left"]the gap is also prevalent at my school, Rangeview High School in Aurora, Colorado. There really is a problem with the achievement gap. Look at the facts: 25.8 percent of African-Americans are in poverty according to  census data published in 2013. That’s a quarter of all African-Americans in the United States. The great majority of these people live in the South and Northeast. The states with the lowest education rates are largely populated with African-Americans, where 30 percent of African-Americans in states like Alabama, West Virginia, Mississippi, Kentucky and Tennessee live in poverty. The problem is more about where students live—in poverty or not—and how their lives are being affected by challenges at home, which then affect classroom behavior or attention in class. This goes for all races, but the trend is that many of the students with families living in poverty drop out of high school, or are just not getting the right education needed and end up on the lowest part of the achievement gap. I spoke with Rangeview English teacher Jordan Carter, a Black male educator, who shared his own opinion on the topic.
It’s a hard question, believe it or not, with a simple solution. I believe the achievement gap is a multi-level problem in the education system. The hardest thing about it is telling people it is a significant problem. We can solve it by devoting time and resources to find the problem and we need to address kids from all backgrounds. Kids with better resources usually do better.
Being a Black male, I really do see what is going on, and I believe that it can be resolved by acknowledging something else—the stereotypes that are often placed on minority students. As a student at Rangeview, I’ve had teachers not pay attention to me and ignore me, but that is not the only issue. I’ve been in numerous AP, honors and Community College of Aurora (CCA) classes throughout my high school career. I really have noticed underprivileged kids being treated differently, almost like the teachers thought of them as troublemakers without even knowing them. I’ve had many teachers stereotype me about drugs, hip-hop, if I have a dad and more, and it made me pretty uncomfortable to the point where I didn’t want to go to the class. I feel that issues such as these that occur in the classroom make students of color not want to focus, and teachers could probably use better training on how to teach kids who do not look like them. It is becoming evident that RHS is in need of a serious sit-down with some of our staff, such as the principal, teachers and all administrators. That way, students can see where their minds are and how they are trying to deal with the way they feel about fair conditions in the classroom. The administrators should also talk to students—particularly minority students—about our wants and needs so we as students can put some input into their ideas. For the students who are struggling, it would be great to have counselors talk to them and find a way that would help the students improve their academic careers, such as tutoring, staying after school and more. I have faced the stereotype of being another dropout who is eventually going to jail, but I use that as inspiration every day. I know that all African-American males and females can make a change by letting our voice be heard. Although I haven’t been through as much as other African-American students, I’ve been through enough to have my opinion matter. We—as minorities—can also take responsibility to change this problem by staying in school and voting into our government people who will fund impoverished areas. As a community we need to fight stereotypes together—we either defeat stereotypes together or become the stereotypes ourselves.
An original version of this post appeared on Colorado School Talk as I may be a student, but I know about the achievement gap.
Ayden Clayton
Ayden Clayton is a student at Rangeview High School in Aurora, Colorado. He is a reporter for the Rangeview Raider Review, the school's student newspaper.

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