Closingthe Achievement Gap in Preschool Education
Closingthe achievement gap in preschool education
Theachievement gap is the insistent discrepancy in academic attainmentbetween the minority and disadvantaged and their white counterparts(Carroll,2010). For over 60 years now, the US government has fought so hard tobridge the achievement gap, especially in early childhood education.Since 1954, several Acts have been passed, and policies implementedto bring some equality among the children of color and their whiteequals. Various studies have been carried out in this field toestablish the causes of this persistent disparity, the strategies,which have been implemented, and the progress that has been made. Itis against this backdrop that the discourse deliberates on thehistory of the achievement gap in education, why this issue is stillvery pertinent in the United States and what has been done so far toaddress this issue.
Theissue of bridging the gap between the low-income students and thefinancially stable white students has a long history in the UnitedStates. In 1954, the nation started to have some hope of narrowingthe achievement gap after the Brown v. Board of Educationdesegregation decision was made. A decade after that, studies stillindicated that the achievement gap was still persistent especially inthe Preschool stage. In 1964, the Civil Rights Act was passed andgenerated optimism for progress in education and the society. Amongits main objectives, the Civil Rights Act aimed at guaranteeing everychild was entitled to certain rights such as the right to qualityeducation. The federal government took another step in 1965, toaddress the obdurate achievement gap by passing the Elementary andSecondary Education Act (ASEA). This particular Act focused on theinequality of school resources. During this period, the US governmentmainly concentrated on implementing strategies, which would ensureall schools were equal in terms of resources such as learningmaterials, infrastructure, and teachers. In 1966, the ColemanReportalso known as “Equality of Educational Opportunity” commissionedby the U.S. Department of Education was published (Coleman et.al.,1966). Up to date, the U.S. government is still focused on closingthe education achievement gap through the implementation of variousstrategies such as allocating more resources to schools serving lowsocio-economic backgrounds. Although the achievement gap ineducation, in particular in Preschool education have stubbornlypersisted, its magnitude has changed. According to Chatterji (2006),since NationalAssessment of Education Progress (NAEP) started its analysis in early1970s, it has provided useful information on this gap. According toNAEP’s assessments, there are times when the achievement gapnarrows and some other times widen.
Thereare several socio-economic, cultural and political factorscontributing to the issue of the achievement gap in Preschooleducation. According to Bangs and Davis (2014), the family backgroundgreatly contributes to the gap. Children born in low-income familiesare more likely to have low birth weight a factor that is associatedwith poor cognitive development. Children from low-income familieshave a high probability of having a poor diet and nutrition, a factorthat affects their Preschool education achievement. According toChatterji(2006), Black and Hispanic children are read to much less, comparedto white children. Research also indicate that children fromeconomically poor backgrounds are read less to leading to aconsiderable disadvantage in terms of language acquisition, literacydevelopment and general success in school.
Accordingto National Center for Education Statistics (2010), there is a bigdisparity in terms of education equality among various cultures inthe United States. Research indicates that many teachers serving thepoor families from low socio-economic communities are uncertified andinexperienced. The teachers are poorly prepared impacting negativelyon the education achievement in school. Politically, there arevarious factors contributing to the persistence of the achievementgap. According to Coleman et al. (1966), there is a disparity inresource allocation by the federal government between the lowsocio-economic communities and the high-class social classcommunities. The policies which have been implemented to achievecertain political goals have greatly disadvantaged the poorcommunities in various ways. Such policies have led to lack of properand quality health and social services, poor community safety andinadequate education resources (libraries, institutions, qualifiedteachers and access to quality child care). Political motives havecontributed to State budget deficits, unfunded federal mandates andinequities in funding among school districts all contributing to thewidening achievement gap.
Theachievement gap is still important, and every country and not onlythe U.S. should focus on effectively addressing the issue. Carroll(2010) contends that education achievement is inextricably tied tothe future of any nation and anyone concerned about crime,unemployment, economic prosperity, and taxes should first getconcerned about the achievement gap. Recent research indicates thathigh school drop outs perpetuate many crimes in the society. Carrollargues that it is more expensive for any nation to addresseffectively the issue of crime than it is for a nation to pay forquality education for children to prevent crime in future. Most ofthe well-paying jobs in any nation require education beyond highschool. For any nation to bridge the gap between the lowsocio-economic communities and the high class, it should focus onensuring every child is educated to get a well-paying job foreconomic stability. However, as long as the achievement gap persists,children from poor backgrounds will always remain economicallyunstable since few of them go beyond high school to get well-payingjobs. Significantly, the United States should still care about theachievement gap if it aims to improve economically, raise a healthysociety and bridge the gap between the rich and the poor (Bangs& Davis, 2014).
Theachievement gap in Preschool education is affecting the early careand education of young children from poor backgrounds and theirfamilies in several ways. The achievement gap in Preschool education,associates with disparities in long-term social, educational andeconomic outcomes for young children of color and their families. Thegap has contributed to poor performance in the education of theminority children, and many of them end up dropping out of schooleven before completing high school. The achievement gap is the maincause of widening the gap between the poor and rich families. Thefact that the achievement gap has persisted is the main reason thepoor have continually been disadvantaged in terms of resourceallocation, lack of access to quality health care and education. According to Bangs & Davis (2014), if the government does notimplement effective intervention measure, the achievement gap willcontinue widening contributing to a widening income disparity inadulthood.
Sincethe 1960s, proposed solutions to this problem can be categorized intopreschool reforms, teacher reforms, instructional reforms andstandard-based reforms (Carroll,2010). Research reveals substantial evidence that there is a bigdisparity in preschool programs’ quality for the minority and thewhite children. Currently, the nation is focused in standardizing thepreschool programs for all the children in an attempt to bridge theachievement gap. Teacher reforms mainly revolve around the issue ofteacher quality. For decades, inexperienced and unprepared teachershave served most of the minority children. The teacher reforms,therefore, aim at ensuring every child has a right to get a welltrained and qualified teacher to narrow the achievement gap.
Instructionalreforms aim at ensuring the children with color are provided withequal educational opportunities. Examples of such strategies whichhave been implemented include success for all and reduced class size.According to National Center for Education Statistics (2010), many ofthe implemented instructional reforms have produced positive resultsand hence the nation should focus more on implementing more of thesestrategies to bridge the gap. Standard based reforms such as puttingstudent achievement on the map have been implemented and have shownsome improvement in closing the achievement gap. Recently, the “NoChild Left Behind” strategy was proposed to ensure that allchildren get access to quality education to narrow the achievementgap. However, researchers point out that a lot is yet to beimplemented to address effectively the issue of the achievement gap.
Fromthe argument, it is reasonably clear that the issue of theachievement gap in Preschool education has been persistent for overfive decades in the United States. The widening achievement gap isthe main cause of the big disparity between the poor and the richespecially in the developed nations. Since 1960s, the U.S. governmenthas implemented various strategies to address the problem but asresearchers point out, the government still has a long way to go, interms of effectively solving the adamant issue. It is highlyrecommended that the government remain focused and invest heavily ineffectively addressing this persistent issue if it hopes to narrow orcompletely bridge the economic disparity between the minoritycommunities and the whites.
Bangs,R. & Davis, L., E. (2014). Raceand Social Problems: Restructuring Inequality.Springer.
CarrollJ. (2010). Closing the Achievement Gap: Early Reading Success andConnecticut’s Economic Future. Connicticut Association for HumanServices. Retrieved June, 13 2015 fromhttp://www.hartfordinfo.org/issues/wsd/education/CAHS_ClosingGap.pdf
Chatterji,M. (2006). Reading achievement gaps, correlates, and moderators ofearly reading achievement: Evidence from the early childhoodlongitudinal study (ECLS) kindergarten to first grade sample. Journalof Educational Psychology, 98(3), 489-507.
Coleman,J. S., Campbell, E. Q., Hobson, C. J., McPartland, J., Mood, A. M.,Weinfeld, E. D.& York, R. L. (1966). Equality of educationalopportunity. Washington, D. C.: U.S. Government Printing Office.
NationalCenter for Education Statistics. (2010). National Assessment ofEducation Progress. NAEP State Comparisons. Retrieved June, 13 2015from http://nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard/statecomparisons