Achievement Gap

 This semester students in READ 6306 each wrote a course-related post for this blog.

By Isai Cabrera

The end of another academic school year is vastly approaching, and when I reflect on another year, I can’t help to wonder what gains my students achieved.  Did I do my part on closing the ever so widening Achievement Gap?  When I first stepped on campus of University of Texas-Pan American I was a passionate undergraduate ready to tackle the world.  I was keen on studying Mexican American Studies and was in the middle of my program.  Until I stepped into Professor Guerra’s class I was enjoying learning about La Raza, I finally realized what my calling I was destined for. What better way to impact young Mexican Americans than by actually trying to make a difference in their education?  When Dr. Guerra presented us with the statistics of Mexican American graduating from high school, 50 percent, and the number for graduating the University, 6 percent, I understood how I could make a difference.

The National Center for Education Statistics website describe the achievement gap as follows An achievement gap refers to the observed disparity on a number of educational measures between the performance of groups of students, especially groups defined by gender, race/ethnicity, ability, and socioeconomic status. The achievement gap can be observed on a variety of measures, including standardized test scores, grade point average, dropout rates, and college-enrollment and -completion rates. By definition this means that in the Valley the majority of Mexican American students fall or lag behind their counterpart in the classroom.  When I began my first year of teaching one of my heroes is my mentor, friend, and 1st principal Jeremy Beard, this man was the one responsible for making sure that I knew exactly what the achievement gap meant to our students. My principal made sure that all the staff understood the grim reality of what happens when we don’t educate our students.

In the article “The Economic Impact of the Achievement Gap in America’s Schools” by McKinsey & Company, Social Sector Office outlines the cost of our inaction or failure to close the achievement gap. If the U.S. had closed the achievement gap in recent years between those in better performing nations the Gross Domestic Product in 2008 could have been 1.3-2.3 trillion.  If the U.S. could have closed the gap between black and Latino student performance and white student performance the GDP in 2008 would have been 310-525 Billion higher.  Close the gap between low-income and higher income the GDP would have been 425-710 billion higher. That is a lot of money a lot of us could use right now.  Forget about banks and houses the impact of the achievement gap in the U.S. is the equivalent of a permanent national recession.  This demonstrates how we vital we as teachers must be and consider how we can do our part in closing the achievement gap.  Every teacher plays an indispensable role in our students’ academic journey.  I know that we fight the wave of anesthetize from administrators and the state of Texas that states we need to concentrate our full power, energy, and wealth of knowledge to a High Stakes Test.  As teachers, we need to make our classroom Literacy rich environment so that we set up our students’ future for success, so we can set up the Rio Grande Valley’s economy for success, so we can set up our country’s economy for success.

 When I look at the last year in my classroom, I know that a textbook being the center of my room was not the most ideal plan, even if that text book was Pre AP created-a prestigious curriculum.  I should have provided more novel based units, more short stories based weekly reading, more current event article based daily readings. I allowed the powers to be to oppress my knowledge of what a successful Literacy based classroom looks like, and I fell short of taking it upon myself be a more effective teacher.  I recommit myself to make it my goal to close the achievement gap, no matter what my administration forces me to do.  When I close my door to my classroom I am the one in charge.

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