Friday, February 17, 2017

The Achievement Gap

What exactly is the Achievement Gap?  According to the Glossary of Education Reform the Achievement Gap refers to:

any significant and persistent disparity in academic performance or educational attainment between different groups of students, such as white students and minorities, for example, or students from higher-income and lower-income households.

The NMC Horizon Report defines the Achievement Gap as “an observed disparity in academic performance between student groups, especially as defined by socioeconomic status, race, ethnicity, or gender.”

Is there an achievement gap in British Columbia? Why is the achievement gap a concern?  One has only to look at the controversial FSA results to see that it exists in our own backyard.  My own school ranks 949/956.  Does this reflect the quality of teaching?  Do these schools have exceptional teachers?  More innovative programs?  I would argue that the staff at my school are just as qualified, experienced,innovative and dedicated as that of any school on the list.  All of the top ten are in the lower mainland and six of them are in Vancouver itself.  Compare the demographics and it becomes apparent that there is a link to socio-economic status and achievement.  This suggests that it is a social justice issue.

My school district is making an effort to address the achievement gap.  Research shows that “progressive systems that provide more funding to higher-need schools can help correct this imbalance. (Horizon, 2017) To this end SD#68 has identified several “focus” schools that it has directed additional resources to.  Presently we are in the second year of this initiative so long term effects are not yet known.
The BCTF’s stand to reinstate stripped language pertaining to class size and composition from contracts is justified from an academic achievement perspective as the Horizon report states that “ investment in lower student-teacher ratios and higher teacher wages resulted in schools with smaller achievement gaps and better educational outcomes for low-SES students”

While inequality still exists in British Columbia schools, we are fortunate our students are not faced with barriers such as war or overt sexua;l discrimination that exists in many countries and heavily impact  achievement.  All students have the opportunity to attend school although they may come with different degrees of readiness.

I have heard it argued that we are investing too many resources into lower-performing demographics and neglecting higher achievers.  I was intrigued by the research cited in the Horizon (2017) report that suggests  improving learning for low performers does not come at the expense of average or top performers”

I am committed to closing the achievement gap and providing all students with the opportunity to achieve their full potential regardless of socio-economic status, gender, race, religion, or physical ability. These words spoken by (though not originating from) a teacher featured in the article Blueberries  by Jamie Vollmer resonate with me,.

We take them big, small, rich, poor, gifted, exceptional, abused, frightened, confident, homeless, rude, and brilliant. We take them with ADHD, junior rheumatoid arthritis, and English as their second language. We take them all! Every one!


Concepts, L. (2013). Achievement Gap Definition. The Glossary of Education Reform. Retrieved 9 February 2017, from

Editorial Projects in Education Research Center. (2011, July 7). Issues A-Z: Achievement Gap. Education Week. Retrieved 7 February 2017 from

2016-nmc-cosn-horizon-report-k12-EN.pdf. (2017). Google Docs. Retrieved 9 February 2017, from

Vollmer, Jamie. The Blueberry Story: The teacher gives the businessman a lesson.. (2017). Retrieved 18 February 2017, from

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