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What is the Achievement Gap and What Has Been Done to Close It?

Studies across the US, and indeed, other nations, have shown that there is consistent evidence of a gap in achievement between pupils. Further investigations over many years have provided us with evidence of the two things that have had the biggest impact on the creation of this divide: economic position and racial/ethnic background. With this in mind, we look at the Achievement Gap in greater detail, studying the methods which have already been used to try and close it along the way.

The facts don't lie - there is clearly a massive distance in terms of academic achievement between pupils, and the singularly largest causes of this are closely related to wealth and racial/ethnic heritage.

It's easy to say, but demonstrations really enforce the message. So, to show the Achievement Gap in action, let's look at the free school lunches example. Entitlement to a free school meal is based upon the financial position of the student's parents or guardians - families who are not wealthy and struggle to fund daily food for their children fit this criteria. What surprises many is that the average free lunch student is academically two years behind the typical child who is illegible for a free meal.

The above situation illustrates the stark contrast in achievement between the wealthy and those experiencing financial problems/poverty. However, what is the Achievement Gap like in relation to ethnicity and/or race? As we are about to see: it's equally bad - if not worse.

Statistics from high schools across American tell us that little over half of African-American and Latino students perform well enough to graduate, with only between 51-55% making the grade. When it comes to white students, this percentage accounts for over of the group, with 76% achieving the standards needed to be passed for graduation.

The facts continue, with each one making the true extent of the problem clearer than the last. It's blatantly obvious that something needs to be done, and the action has already got underway.

Some of the larger schools in urban environments have already been sub-divided into smaller units. This allows struggling pupils to get more attention and one-to-one time than was made accessible to them in larger classes beforehand. A more drastic measure, old curriculums have been totally scraped in some US state regions, with new ideas to target and help under-performing pupils being introduced.

The re-development of the curriculum in some schools has allocated more time to focus on reading and writing - two of the most basic skills - for pupils who are extremely far behind. By looking at the fundamental areas of literacy in detail once again, students who were disrupted because of their economic status or race/ethnicity are being given another opportunity to revise the basics.

Special classes in school time and on an extra-curricular basis are becoming more common, with the Achievement Gap in some schools narrowing as a result. It's inevitable: more needs to be done to further reduce the problem, but at least a start has been made.

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