Last night I was reading and talking to one of my boys and I told him I was reading about the achievement gap. To which he responded, "You love to read about that ish." Which I do, it's the motivation for my research. While we talked I lamented over not really learning anything "new" from most publications on it. He responded, "Well if you're going to publish on it, why don't you just write the book that someone's going to write in 25 years. Just say it (the achievement gap) ain't going no where." While on the face this remark is fatalistic, I think he's actually right on. I was further confirmed of this when I woke up and finally read through Gloria Ladson-Billings' 2006 American Educational Research Association's Presidential Address. The talk was entitled "From the Achievement Gap to the Education Debt: Understanding Achievement in U.S. Schools." The talk is really amazing and I encourage you read it, it's a little longer than most things that I link to, but well worth it. Or you can watch it here.
She uses economics to discuss educational inequality but not in predictable ways. She uses economics to talk about people.
I am arguing that our focus on the achievement gap is akin to a
focus on the budget deficit, but what is actually happening to
African American and Latina/o students is really more like the
national debt. We do not have an achievement gap; we have an
The talk is based on the idea that we do not know what really causes the narrowing of the gap.
However, when we begin looking at the construction and compilation
of what I have termed the education debt, we can better
understand why an achievement gap is a logical outcome. I am
arguing that the historical, economic, sociopolitical, and moral
decisions and policies that characterize our society have created an
She powerfully weaves a narrative of black, brown, yellow and red children's cumulative educational disadvantage. She makes powerful policy metaphors from Plessy v. Ferguson, Brown v. Board of Ed, the Voting Rights Acts all the way to the responses to Hurricane Katrina. She leaves us with fertile ground to start our work toward improving children's lives and opportunities. I can't encourage you enough to read it, it gives a richer context to discussions of the pursuit of educational and social inequality.