“Achievement gap” has become the catch phrase between the students who are succeeding and those who are not, the students who are affluent and those who are not, and those who have, and those who have not. But the phrase “achievement gap” gives the allusion that the gap exists because of a lack of student achievement. But that is not true. Disparity in education across the United States is not solely the fault of students unable to achieve. This disparity derives from lack of financial and social resources, lack of skilled teachers and lack of confidence within our students.
It is not our children’s fault that their schools are failing, because if a student comes hungry to a school that doesn’t have money for supplies, and whose parents cannot understand the language in which the student is studying, how can they compete with their counterparts whose social capital greatly outweighs their own?
As we work to close this “disparity gap,” it is important that we raise student achievement, increase self-esteem and self-worth. But If I had to choose, I would work to increase self-esteem and self-worth, because if a student feels worthless, how is he or she going to achieve? A student who has self-esteem and self-worth is more likely to achieve because self-confidence can affect academic outcomes. We can raise students’ self-worth by setting them up for success and by having high expectations. If we expect all first graders to be able to read and all eight graders to be able to do algebra, and we support student learning with praise along the way, our students can meet our expectations. The “system” seems to perpetuate the fallacy that students who are low-income or from urban areas are doomed to failure, but that does not have to be the case. If we believe in our students and instill within them the values of determination, cooperation, teamwork and pride, they can meet high expectations. If students know that they can succeed and that there is someone who believes in them, they will have self-esteem and self-worth, they will achieve, and this "disparity gap" as we know it could cease to exist.