Diversity: The Windows of Opportunity in Overcoming the Academic Achievement Gap between African-American and White Students and in Overcoming Racially Discriminatory Myths of African American Students in Public Education

By McLauchlin, Vera Ann | Forum on Public Policy: A Journal of the Oxford Round Table, Spring 2007 | Go to article overview

Diversity: The Windows of Opportunity in Overcoming the Academic Achievement Gap between African-American and White Students and in Overcoming Racially Discriminatory Myths of African American Students in Public Education


McLauchlin, Vera Ann, Forum on Public Policy: A Journal of the Oxford Round Table


Introduction

The educational opportunities afforded all African-American students since the Brown v. Board of Education decision of 1954 should have assisted in placing African-American students academically on par with their White counterparts. This decision legally authorized academic conditions that would bring about equity and access for African-American students in public schools. Therefore, when the Brown decision began the process of school desegregation, social scientists confidently predicted that the racial gap in academic performance would soon be eliminated (R. Slavin and N. Madden 2001, 4).

The desirable academic outcome or goal in 1954 remains the same in 2007, that is, the elimination of the academic achievement gap between African-American and White students. Also, according to Judith Winston, "We cannot postpone the opportunity to educate children to high standards while ... seeking additional resources to coordinate the multilayered efforts that will transform schools into the culturally and racially diverse schools envisioned and promised by Brown" (1995, 763).

Even though schools are now desegregated, public education has failed to deliver the promise of a quality education for Blacks ("Brown Anniversary Speakers" n.d., 1; Meldrum and Eaton 1994 [Abstract]; Slavin and Madden 2001, 4; U.S. Department of Education n.d., para. 1). This is because the Brown decision did not lead to substantial de facto changes in equity and access in the public school system. For example, in discussing the academic achievement gap, the Minority Student Achievement Network study noted that the achievement gaps are not limited to the gap in grade point average; they are found in course level enrollment, performance in specific courses, rates of participation in gifted programs, and in special education placement (Ogbu 2003, 3). Consequently, nowhere is the challenge of a first-rate education for African-American students more evident than in the disparity known as the academic achievement gap between African-American students and their White counterparts. An academic achievement gap exists in most public educational systems throughout the United States due to racial discrimination.

The academic achievement gap has given way to the emergence of racist discriminatory education myths, such as: a) African-American students innately cannot learn; b) African-American students are incapable of competing academically with their White counterparts; and c) The academic achievement gap between African-American and White student population is irreducible.

African-American Students and the Academic Achievement Gap

The purpose of this article is to first, challenge racist discriminatory education myths concerning the academic low achievement of African-American students in the public schools in the United States. Second, it is to inculcate diversity in antithesis to such myths in the elimination of the academic achievement gap. In this article, two terms are operationally defined, academic achievement gap and diversity, used synonymously in education as multiculturalism. A formal discussion of the academic achievement gap cannot be discussed in a vacuum; its relevance lies in its educational genre. Haycock, President of the Education Trust, described the achievement gap as differences between one group's average score and the average of another group's score on a particular test (2001, 4). Thompson and O'Quinn defined the achievement gap as measuring the performance of White and minority students on tests such as the National Assessment of Educational Progress, end-of-grade, or end-of-course examinations (2001, 5). Rather than using the term achievement gap, some writers discussing the achievement gap have used racial disparities to define the achievement gap (Ferguson, Clark, and Stewart 2002, 3; Johnston and Viadero 2000, p. 5).

Multicultural education as defined by Nieto is antiracist education, basic education, important for all students, pervasive, education for social justice, is a process and is a critical pedagogy (2000, 305). …

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