I had a conversation about gaps today. I wasn’t sure which gap was referred to because this phrase has many meanings. Letterman is fine with his gap; educators are not fine with achievement gaps. Politicians make policies that ignore crucial gaps, the ones that go to the root of the problem. Everyone seems confused. Gaps remain.
Gaps exist in classrooms, buildings, districts, counties, states and patterns form across countries.
The truth is, achievement gaps in the United States are pretty predictable. Most can tell you about their district before any test scores come out. The issue, time and time again has to do with opportunity and wealth or IEP status. The patterns are clear in every district; every state.
Come down from the helicopter view and into a building: there is MUCH a teacher can do to design the learning so that all kids in front of them have a chance. Relationships are the cornerstone for all learning. Enthusiasm is contagious. Deep thinking and learning can occur. We engineer the context. Hope is restored with a great teacher.
Still, over time and across the district and the state: poverty, limited experience and racism are problems. Gaps exist between boys and girls; people of color and those milky white; kids with IEPs and those whithout. Until we address that with our education, assessment and even housing policies, the gaps will persist. Teachers will continue to be blamed for walls they cannot permeate. Kids in poverty will stay in poverty. Boys and students of color will be suspended at higher rates. Initiatives will aim at the wrong target . I’m thinking of my dog, chasing his tail.
This conundrum, however, isn’t quite so clever or funny.
We need to go to the core to solve the real problems WHILE engineering relationships and environments that support; design learning that engages. If we look at gender, IEP status and socio-economic factors, we still have to keep teaching well. To teach well, we do have to look at socio-economic factors, gender and IEP status. To deny the culture of poverty is to lie to ourselves and our students. To deny the hurdles faced by students with IEPs and those of color is unfair. And yes, we need to figure out how to create environments where boys can thrive. Many great teachers do that, but not all boys have that experience.
It isn’t all or nothing; either /or . It rarely is. There are no excuses. We must teach well. If that could happen within the context of policies reflecting the real problems, teachers might have a chance to support all of their students.
We need to mind the gap. The big gaps. And stop chasing our tails.