Why Should We Stop Using the Term “Achievement Gap”?
“In Beloved, Toni Morrison taught us that usually”definitions belong to the definers—not the defined.”” “To those who are defined—who carry the weight and the scars of inaccurate, malicious words—language matters.” Wow, this quote from the article “Please Stop Using the Phrase ‘Achievement Gap’” really struck me. How often do you stop and think about the meaning of the words we are using, or the phrases we are saying? Not often. “Language counts because it suggests, if not highlights, the thinking underneath the words used.” “Words count because they indicate place, position, and power.” As with so many other things people who hold power are the ones who get to decide things. And at the same time I believe that they are often oblivious to some of the true problems that are happening.
In this article the author states that the term “achievement gap” is inaccurate because it blames the historically marginalized, under-served victims of poor schooling and holds whiteness and wealth as models of excellence. I’m reminded of the discussion we had in class about another article that said that the gap in testing scores is consistently 8 points. This means that students are learning at the same rate, but some students are starting further behind. The achievement gap is only looking at the outcomes and not what is leading to those outcomes, or how the outcomes are consequences of those conditions.
After reading this article and considering some of the points the author makes I agree with her and believe that “achievement gap” isn’t the best phrase for what is going on. “Opportunity gap” would be a better phrase. I do see why “Achievement” is being used, simply because it’s about the gap in the scores. However, there is a bigger picture we should be looking at about what is causing the gap and how students opportunities prior to school make a difference. It’s no coincidence that students that are born with certain privileges are getting higher scores, and this is a problem.
Questions for You
How can we close the gap? How can we get to those students who have less opportunities are work on prevention and less on fixing the gap? Do you think there is a problem with the term “Achievement gap”? Why do you think that is the term being used?