Three areas of focus to close the achievement gap

Letter to the editorMy name is Briana Lindsey and I am a student in the Master of Social Work program at the University of St. Thomas/St. Catherine University. I am writing in response to the article titled: “Education advocates call for retooled No Child Left Behind on 50th anniversary” by Zenitha Prince (published at MSR online, April 13, 2015).

This was an excellent article. I also believe that educators, policy makers, social workers and community members should focus on areas such as the achievement gap and lack of funding for early childhood education programs. As a woman of color who grew up on the North side of Minneapolis, I appreciate articles like Zenitha’s that shed light on issues that happen every day, not only in our community but all over the nation.

The Elementary and Secondary Education Act focuses on many areas, but I believe that the ever-growing achievement gap should be a major focus. According to The National Center for Educational Statistics, “The achievement gap occurs when one group of students outperforms another group, and the difference in average scores for the two groups are statistically significant.” The achievement gap can be seen in areas such as grade point averages, test scores, college admittance and graduation rates.

I believe that there are three crucial areas that should be focused on to start eliminating the achievement gap. The first is mandatory early childhood education programs and/or school readiness programs. These programs would ensure that all students are receiving the same “head start” as others. The second area is placing more emphasis on developing individualized education plans for all students. These individualized education plans would also allow educators to tackle issues like learning disabilities early on.

The third area should be more funding for parent education courses and resources. A child’s environment and family life is a huge indicator on how successful their education will be. Parent education courses and resources would give educators, students and parents a chance to work collaboratively to improve the student’s level of functioning in a school setting.

We still have a lot of work to do as educators, policy makers, social workers and community members to eliminate educational disparities. But I believe that we are making great strides. It is phenomenal that we are shedding light on important issues such as this. If we continue to promote academic success and positive youth development I know we will conquer this issue.

Briana M. Lindsey lives in Brooklyn Park, MN.