An Analysis Gap Of The Achievement Gap

Yesterday Emory University education professor Jacqueline Irvine discussed the racial achievement gap in a lecture at UVa. As reported by the Cavalier Daily, here are some of her observations:

  • “Irvine, a graduate of Howard University, said she thinks the two most important issues to address are school segregation and the gap in test scores.”
  • “She said 48 percent of schoolchildren today are from a diverse background, but noted that “growing diversity does not entail growing integration.”

    [Query: Does that mean that 52 percent of schoolchildren are from a homogeneous, identical, uniform, similar, unvarying background?]

  • “Irvine attributed a lack of integration in public schools to the enrollment of white children in private schools.”
  • “The disparity in test scores cannot be explained solely by a socioeconomic dynamic between whites and blacks. For example, a comparison between specific social groups, such as white and black middle-class students, still reveals the same gap.”
  • “‘The quality of a teacher is the single most important factor in closing the gap,’ Irvine said, noting that teachers must realize students gain much of their knowledge from their communities and must be able to make teaching content applicable to everyday life, she said.”
  • “Making a difference one student at a time, however, is not the best strategy, according to Irvine.”
  • “Irvine said government involvement in urban education is crucial because the entanglement of social and racial issues cannot be handled by school systems alone.”

    “‘We cannot close the achievement gap if we can’t close the income, employment, nutrition and childcare gaps,’ Irvine said. ‘We are interested in the transformation of structural institutions of inequality.’”

Let me see if I’ve got this right. The two most important issues are school segregation and the achievement gap.

School segregation is caused by too many whites going to private schools, but if Prof. Irvine mentioned a remedy for this problem it wasn’t reported.

Regarding the achievement gap, the “single most important factor in closing the gap” is the quality of the individual teacher, but “[m]aking a difference one student at a time … is not the best strategy.” Even though the achievement gap cannot be explained by “a socioeconomic dynamic between whites and blacks” (I think this is education-speak for a difference in income and social class), we can’t close the gap unless we transform “structural institutions of inequality.”

If this is the sort of analysis that passes for wisdom in education schools (and it must be, or Prof. Irvine presumably wouldn’t have been invited to deliver the second annual Dr. Walter Ridley Distinguished Lecture), then no wonder our schools are in trouble.

Say What?