Professional Articles

Achievement gaps between black and students are evident across the country. Most contribute these achievement gaps to differences and segregation between schools. While this is true in some cases, there is also strong evidence suggesting that there is segregation and racial inequality within schools that contribute to achievement gaps. Multiple studies have shown that this is a real problem within schools that have a diverse racial and economic composition. However, it’s difficult to formulate a direct cause to why this phenomenon is occurring in our schools.

Income inequality plays a large role in contributing to achievement gaps. “Researchers found some of the biggest black-white achievement gaps in the country—where black students lag their peers by more than 1.5 full standard deviations, or four to five grade levels on the NAEP scale—in relatively prosperous university towns” (Sparks, 2016). This is astonishing to grasp because wealthier schools should have ample resources to combat this achievement gap within their own school. “If you give a low-income student the exact same resource as an upper-income student, but the need is greater for the low-income student, the gap is going to expand” (Sparks, 2016). Income and race can be tied together, which is why this finding is very important. Even if a low-income student attends a school in a wealthier neighborhood school, that doesn’t guarantee the success of that student.

Access to materials within a school contributes to the achievement gap. Not surprisingly, wealthier students receive greater benefits. “Unequal access to rigorous math content as a driving force behind similar performance gaps between poor and wealthy teenagers on math” (Sparks, 2015). In fact, “a student’s “opportunity to learn” rigorous math content was directly related to family income” (Sparks, 2015). Because there is a large income gap, on average, between black and white families, this statistic directly ties to racial injustice in schools.

Segregation is a “feedback cycle.” This feedback cycle will continue to rotate until massive reform occurs. The feedback cycle refers to that “we can never have integrated schools while we have segregated neighborhoods…and as long as schools are unequal and linked to neighborhoods, that’s going to play a big role in neighborhood segregation” (Sparks, 2016). But that brings up a question. How do we change the composition of neighborhoods without forcing desegregation between neighborhoods? White flight contributes this segregation that doesn’t allow for schools to fully integrate. Surely, there must be something done to create a more equal system within schools and across schools. “Something about school quality—not only about racial segregation, but about the fact that racial segregation in America almost inevitably leads to these kind of disparities [students’] exposure to poverty and differences in the kinds of resources that schools have” (Sparks, 2016). Racial segregation appears to be the driving factor behind the achievement gap in schools.

In the case of racial inequality within schools, organizers must take a different approach to organizing. Because segregation often stretches across different neighborhoods, organizers must get leaders from all neighborhoods to bring change. Without someone or something driving a change, students will continue to stay in a segregation feedback cycle that is unjust.