Are You a Part of the Problem or the Solution?: Perspectives on the Achievement Gap in Two Hudson Valley Communities

Article excerpt

The First Steps

Define educate. We all recognize good education, we know when children score high or low, when there is a good teacher or bad teacher, and if children walk out of the classroom with a new topic filling their heads. In order to analyze education, we must first clearly define it. According to the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, educate means--to provide schooling for; to train by formal instruction and supervised practice especially in a skill, trade, or profession; to develop mentally, morally, or aesthetically especially by instruction; to persuade or condition to feel, believe or act in a desired way." This puts education into a slightly different light, because if one was to ask a stranger on the street, one would probably just go with the "formal instruction" portion of the definition.

So why must it be important to understand education? One must grasp that educating is not just about subject matter, but also teaching of life skills, behavior and beliefs. One must be prepared to accept the concept that a teacher (or educator) is like a second parent who is going to prepare a child for what one may hope is a bright future. The problem is, each child is not the same and comes from different communities. The teacher also brings prejudices and this combination in the classroom causes rifts. This rift is a part of what educators and civil rights activists like to call the "achievement gap". While we are familiar with this phrase when it comes to the United States; just pick up any educational literature and you can read about how far behind we are in comparison to European countries or the Asian nations. Each state in the United States of America is also competing with each other to create the best schools and give the best results. Obviously we have some stellar schools, and then we have schools that are doing so poorly that they end up being shut down. Within each school we have the ethnic breakdown of students, and from there we also see some discrepancies and this has become known to the everyday person as the "achievement gap."

It might be helpful to gather a better, well rounded definition and for that, one can turn to the National Education Association (NEA). The NEA states on their website "The term 'achievement gap' is often defined as the differences between the test scores of minority and/or low-income students and the test scores of their White and Asian peers. But achievement gaps in test scores affect many different groups ... Differences between the scores of students with different backgrounds (ethnic, racial, gender, disability and income) are evident on large-scale standardized tests." We will take a closer look at this gap through test scores, and a closer look at two schools within the same county of New York State, and take steps in resolving these issues to give all children a fair and equal education in which each child can excel.

The State of New York

The Black American community has been through some very difficult and trying times throughout history, and sadly till today there is still a lot of inequality. This should come as no surprise to anyone who has studied our country's history. According to the 2011 Census, New York State is roughly 17% Black American, which translates into roughly 3,500,000 people, making New York State one of the most Black American populated states. (2) What better state to dive into issues of equal education, than New York which is a mecca for diverse populations.

The Black American population has drawn closest to New York City and then population declines as New York State moves into more suburban and rural areas. (3) What is also important is to get a clear cut picture of the various jobs that the Black American community participates in, within New York. What is being included are the I 306,463 civilian Black Americans who are over the age of 16. To make the numbers more real, I had taken the liberty to calculate the actual number of people from the percentages. …