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Those involved with the Closing the Achievement Gap initiative met three times last year to address a concern that impacts everyone – the academic achievement gap between students in different demographic subgroups, including race and income.
Closing that gap should concern us all. The Palmetto Achievement Challenge Test (PACT), high school exit exams and end-of-course exams show a 20 percent or more gap in scores between the races and between those receiving free or reduced meals and other students.
In 2006, 80 percent of the district’s white fifth-graders scored basic or better on the math section of the PACT, compared to 68 percent of black fifth-graders and 67 percent of the fifth-graders receiving free or reduced meals, regardless of race.
On the 2006 exit exam, more than 86 percent of white students in the district passed the English/language arts portion versus 64 percent of black students and 65 percent of district students receiving free or reduced meals.
It’s clear that lack of family support and poverty can impact a child’s school performance, which contributes to this achievement gap.
But why and what can be done about it? That’s what local school personnel and community leaders are trying to figure out. They want to identify the reasons and what they can do about them.
“To know what we need to do, we need to know where we are,” said Dr. Gene Moore, Lancaster County School District superintendent.
Bobby Bailey, a retired educator, said the gaps exist before students even begin kindergarten.
“It starts in the home,” said Bailey, who is leading the initiative.
A parent is a child’s first teacher. So if a child doesn’t get support at home, he or she won’t have the basics on which to build their education.
But the achievement gap is not just a black or lower-income problem; it is a problem for society. And so it is up to us, as a society, to help.
Organizations such as Adopt-a-Leader, area churches and the Closing the Achievement Gap initiative are to be commended for trying to make difference. But they can’t do it by themselves. We must all help.
With a new year, why not make the effort a priority?
There’s a slogan that goes “It takes a village to raise a child.” It’s somewhat of a clich, but it has merit. Because if every child isn’t given an equal opportunity for academic achievement, then the villagers will all pay the price.