"The Achievement Gap" and real impacts

This week I'm writing a series on technology and "The Achievement Gap" on my social desktop. This is the third part of the series which takes concepts introduced by "'The Achievement Gap' and culture", and distinguishes between established methods for addressing the problem and making real changes. In my last article I promised to go more into technology, but it seems that the problem I'm addressing needs more distinction at this time.

In previous articles we've seen that "The Achievement Gap" can be
narrowed by: improved school conditions, greater guidance and counseling and increased requirements at higher levels; and greater access to needed resources and literacy plans for earlier grades. It's also been shown that high level administrators in education have implemented policy that positively effects "The Achievement Gap". I haven't found any good data that shows exactly what happens when policy is implemented that effects "The Achievement Gap". From what I have found it seems safe to assume that policy decisions can have an effect on "The Achievement Gap" and that there are large costs associated in doing so. The purpose of this segment on "The Achievement Gap" is to examine issues that known solutions do not take into consideration, namely the effects of socioeconomic status.

Chief among my concerns about "The Achievement Gap" are social and
familial influences that policy makers generally have to work around; directly confronting social problems can easily outrage families who might be at risk. Policy makers can't change the way people think or feel either; their budgets are limited and their ability to influence stops when the school bell rings. To boot, attempting to brute force a cultural change isn't practical. An example of a brute force change might be extending Kindergarten classes from half to a full day, increasing spending to support needy families, enhancing native language programs, or improving student guidance. While these kinds of changes have been shown to positively effect academic performance (and increase spending) they will at best impact socioeconomic and cultural conditions on future generations leaving little tangible difference for many years to come.

There's a strong distinction in this argument between academic performance and social perceptions about education. It has been shown that academic performance can be influenced by brute force on the side of policy makers, but the underlaying cultural and economic problems will persist until there is a cultural shift that undermines negative factors, particularly in impoverished and minority groups. For "The Achievement Gap" to subside by existing methods brute force will have to be applied that pushes those at a disadvantage forward until they no longer constitute a large enough population to warrant the expense. That's basically saying that resources will be spent on these illusive problems until, for some reason, they magically disappear. It should be clear that there is a difference between making an academic impact and a real impact on an education system that faces "The Achievement Gap".

In my next article I will focus on cost effective ways of using technology to address socioeconomic problems linked to "The Achievement Gap" and other known problems in Oregon's education system.

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