SCET Journal 2020/2021

Race Matters »

Closing the Achievement Gap: Honoring the Culture of Our African American Students Salondra Griggs

The achievement gap between White students and African American students is well documented (Burchinal et al., 2011; Thomas, 2019, Benson et al., 2020). The research shows that African American students continue to score lower than White students on academic achievement tests, and according to the NAEP, there was a 28-point difference between the reading scores of White students and African Amer- ican students in 2019. In 2017, there was a 25-point difference between the reading scores of African American students and White students. In 1992, there was a 30-point achievement gap in reading between White and African American students (NAEP). Sadly, the gap continues across America. Despite interventions to close the achievement gap between African American students and White stu- dents, the achievement gap is persistent and occurs at an early age (Hanson et al., 2020; Burchinal et al., 2011; Henry et al., 2020). In a longitudinal study con- ducted by Burchinal et al (2011), the research shows the academic gap appears as early as age 3. As Afri- can American students become older and enter higher grades, they appear to fall further behind academical- ly. Burchinal’s (2011) study lists low teacher expecta- tions, racism, and socioeconomic factors as causes for the achievement gap between African American and white students. Henry et al., (2020) affirms that intersecting factors such as race, socioeconomic factors, and education attainment of parents also influence the achievement gap. Research on socioeconomic factors, parental education, systematic racism, and teacher quali- ty have been explored as possible causes for the achievement gap between white students and Afri- can American students (Henry et al., 2020; Risko & Dalhouse, 2007; Thomas, 2019). These factors inter- sect and have a negative impact for African Ameri- can students as they become adults. The academic gap between African American and white students translates into lower incomes, increased high school Reasons for the Achievement Gap Intersecting Factors

dropout rates, and generational poverty. To further exacerbate the achievement gap, some scholarship explores the role that systematic racism has on the education of African American students (Benson et al., 2020; Burchinal, 2011). Deficit Models Some research has presented the achievement gap from a deficit model (Risko & Dalhouse, 2007; Thom- as, 2019; De Silva et al., 2018). The deficit model frames the research in terms of African American students needing remediation (De Silva et al.; 2018; Schmeichel, 2012). For example, Craig et al., (2004) conducted a study with 65 African American students in second through fifth grade. The purpose of the G-ORT is to measure the dialect of African American children. According to the results, all African Ameri- can children in the study produced characteristics of African American dialect during oral reading (Craig et al., 2004). Teachers who were unfamiliar with African American dialect considered differences such as the dialect of African American students as reading weak- ness (Craig et al., 2004; Connor & Craig, 2006; Good- man et al., 2005). However, teachers who understood the culture and language of African American students looked for assessments that considered the cultural differences of African American students (Goodman et al., 2005, Gardner-Neblitt & Sideris, 2017). Researchers and educators with a deficit model of thinking may hold views that White students are sup- posed to have higher achievement rates than African American students. Therefore, intervention is the only key to “help these poor African American students.” Yet, scholars who believe that African American stu- dents are intelligent and capable of achieving at high levels recognize that the problem does not reside in African American students. The problem resides in schools that do not create curriculums that reflect the culture or lived experiences of African American stu- dents (Ladson-Billings, 2009; De Silva et al., 2018). As a result, African American students may feel alienated in many American schools (Ortiz et al., 2018; Samp- son & Wade, 2010; Risko & Dalhouse, 2007).




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