Ain't No Mountain High Enough: Eradicating the Achievement Gap

By Moore, Alicia L.; Neal, La Vonne I. | Black History Bulletin, Spring 2008 | Go to article overview

Ain't No Mountain High Enough: Eradicating the Achievement Gap


Moore, Alicia L., Neal, La Vonne I., Black History Bulletin


Ain't no mountain high enough, ain't no valley low enough, ain't no river wide enough ...

Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell, 1967

In 1967, singers Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell recorded the hit duet, "Ain't No Mountain." (1) In this song, through the lyrics, they made a melodious declaration of steadfast determination to achieve a desired goal--finding a way to make contact with a loved one despite considerable obstacles to overcome. (2) In the song, these obstacles are described as geological landforms such as mountains, valleys, and rivers that may obstruct travel to one's destination. In the same vein, this issue of the Black History Bulletin (BHB) presents articles in which parents, educators, and legislators display determination to achieve another desired goal--eradicating the achievement gap between white students and students of color. In the quest to eradicate the achievement gap, the considerable obstacles to overcome (3) can be described as teacher bias, poverty, and/or being taught by teachers who are less qualified, all of which may obstruct academic success. (4) Though we, as the editors, find that simplistic parallels can be drawn between the sentiments of the song and the determination of educational stakeholders to eradicate the achievement gap, we also realize that there is one vast difference. While the song states that high mountains, low valleys, and wide rivers are not sufficient obstacles to keep loved ones apart, the gap in educational achievement between students who are white and students of color has been well documented and is larger and more persistent than previously imagined. (5) In other words, metaphorically, the academic mountains, valleys, and rivers (obstacles) have been deceptively higher, lower, and wider than expected. Specifically, "The achievement gaps encompass some startling statistics. The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) indicates that students from low socioeconomic backgrounds, along with African-American and Latino/ a students, are already two years behind other students by the fourth grade." (6) And, even more alarmingly, "Johnston and Viadero claim a child's race will predict their success in school, whether they go to college, and how much money they will earn as adults." According to the authors, "by the year 2019, whites will be twice as likely as African Americans and three times as likely as Hispanics to hold college degrees. They contend these school success predictors are a consequence of the academic achievement gaps which affect grades, test scores and course selections." The authors further claim that national tests in math and English demonstrate that 12th-grade African Americans and Hispanics score similar to white 8th-graders. (7) The claims of these inequitable consequences appear to be substantiated by the Center on Education Policy (CEP) through a review of a variety of studies and test data collected in an effort to better understand the "achievement gap. Their 2001 findings suggested that African American and Hispanic students score significantly lower on standardized tests, on average, than white and Asian students, which may lead to the denial of a high school diploma, an increase in dropout rates and a decrease in opportunities for college attendance." (8)

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Many researchers have presented strategies for narrowing or closing the achievement gap. Some of these strategies include school program reform, culturally responsive teacher staff development training, increases in teacher qualification standards, expanded parental involvement opportunities, and high-stakes testing as a foundation for accountability. (9) However, these are just a few out of many strategies that have been presented over time. It is our goal to present, via this issue, substantive strategies that may be utilized immediately in classrooms through culturally responsive lessons. These lessons contain teacher resources and references, graphic organizers, information about historical figures, and interesting author reflections. …

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