Closing the Opportunity Gap, one Family at a Time (by Jessica Urbina)


The opportunity gap is something that many nations and states are struggling with when it comes to the education of their communities. In many places there are areas where some students have a better chance or “opportunity” to a better education due to location and wealth. In Oregon, we can say that this gap is very true and existing.
With that in mind it not only depends on location and money, but also on the race of some of these students and how that has in turn affected the scores that are received. This in turn has also affected the narrow or wideness of the gap, because if american students are scoring an average result, but hispanic or african american students are scaring very low. This creates a large gap between each race and can be interpreted as the american students as being “smarter”, even though they just scored an average result.
Also, when looking at these racial gaps in education, the home and live environment of each child needs to be taken into account. Many of the children that come from minorities, not always have the same access to resources as those who come from white, educated families.

I believe that one way to help close this ongoing gap would be to start from the source. Yes, it is very helpful to have programs that help children in minorities have an opportunity to some of these resources (like homework help and access to technology), but I believe that there is a better solution. I think that helping these families get out of poverty and/or provide them with the needed education will have that much more of an impact. If the parents of the children are given these tools and are helped to find a better job, then in turn those befits and lifestyle changes with positively impact the student. They will be able to ask questions at home where they are being helped, or maybe the school can provide technology resources that the child can take home in order to complete school assignments. These kinds of changes are a way out of this gap that does not seem to close.
Other questions to think about:
  • What other strategies could be used to help parents and teachers provide a better learning environment for children in minorities, in the classroom and at home?
  • How does the student’s home environment affect their performance in school? 

7 thoughts on “Closing the Opportunity Gap, one Family at a Time (by Jessica Urbina)

  1. Hello Jessica. The opportunity gap is definitely an issue in this country and it is true in our own state of Oregon. This gap can be seen as a consequence of where children live, how much money their families have, and what school they are attending. I think your idea of getting these families out of poverty to help close the opportunity gap is a great idea. However, it may not be a realistic goal. I was reading an article about summer learning, “Lasting Consequences of the Summer Learning Gap” by Karl Alexander and he made some good points. Children that come from more privileged backgrounds more often time engage in some type of summer learning. That means at the beginning of the school year, these children are often times even further ahead than their less advantaged peers. I think a good strategy to try and close this widening gap would be year-round schooling. This would help there not be such a loss of knowledge and motivation during those summer months.

    • Hi Ashley,

      thank you for your feedback, I did not think about that at all. But you are right, summer programs are one way to keep the kids engaged. That might have been why they were created in the first place. I use to volunteer at a summer camp and i think one year they were able to measure the difference it made. For many of those students that took the summer camp, it either helped or it boosted their reading and writing scores by a bit. Showing how beneficial it is for a lot of the minority students to have those people in their lives that will keep encouraging and keep teaching them more material. They are also supper eager to absorb it all, and it beats them watching TV for hours.

      Thank you!

  2. HI Jessica,
    I think you make a great point about fixing the source of the problem and helping get kids who grow up in poverty out of poverty, as opposed to helping them deal with living in poverty and trying to limit the negative effect this can have on their lives. I think Ashley’s idea in the comment above is a great idea too. I know that having school year round is not the most exciting prospect for kids, but maybe incorporating some type of summer activities and learning can really be helpful. I went to a lot of summer camps when I was young, and a lot of times we incorporated games with learning activities and reading and it was both fun and kept me learning. Maybe offering some free programs, like the after school one I am working with now as my community partner during the summer can be really helpful for some of these kids.

    • Hi Jasmine,

      Thank you for your reply. I agree sometimes school year round is not fun, but I do think a lot of other countries have less of a summer break than we do here and their rates are much higher than ours so it might not be such a bad idea. I have always thought our summers were way too long anyways. Maybe one day the american curriculum will add days to the academic calendar.

      Thank you!

  3. I like your idea on helping families get out of poverty, so that they can have more opportunities to help their kids succeed in school. This relates a lot to your question “How does the student’s home environment affect their performance in school?” Students who are struggling at home will most likely struggle at school as well. One example is if the student is also contributing to providing for the family. Some families are not able to survive still even with both parents working. Thus, students of those type of families are also forced to work as well. These students go to school, and then right after, work until late hours. This does not give them enough time to rest, do homework, or even eat. When these kids get to school the next morning, they are still exhausted and too tired to learn anything. They lack the motivation to do good in school because their bodies are overworked. They don’t turn in assignments because they don’t have time to do it. All of these factors add up to their failure in school. Thus, their struggle at home will then create a struggle in school.

    • Randee,

      Thank you for your comment! I agree, a lot of poeople think this only happens in rural countries, but I do think there are many children out there that have to work and help contribute to the families income one way or another. Like you said, taking time away from their studies. Or if it is not work, they might have to baby sit younger siblings and again that takes time away from their learning and their homework, impacting the work they are able to do at school. Helping these children with support for the parents would be highly beneficial.

      Thank you for sharing!

  4. Hi Jessica, I agree with you that the opportunity gap in Oregon is a great problem! Helping these families get out of poverty first is definitely key to these children’s growth and in order to close that opportunity gap! Providing these families with the resources necessary such as (providing food, resources to jobs, clothing donations) I believe are the first steps to getting them to take that first step forward in helping them to get out of that poverty line.
    As for your second question, A lot of our students have to start working at an early age to help their parents make ends meet, thus results in lack of education, resulting in lower test scores. Something that mostly minorities have to worry about. this is not the only factor. If the parents do not have good relationship or if child and parent do not have a good relationship, this could also result in lack of effort in school. There are plenty of factors that play into the opportunity gap. You provided us with some great questions to get us thinking on better ways to help close these gap! Thank you, Jessica.

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