In academic institutions the level of learners’ performance varies, with some learners being average, others above average, and others falling below the average level.
The variation in the performance of the pupils could occur in some class or category like gender, race, disabilities, religion, and culture. Moreover, the difference in the academic performance of students in schools among these categories is what is referred to as achievement gap. Several factors can lead to underachievement in schools.
Some are community related factors while others are factors within the learning institutions (Snell, 2003). One of the problems that cause the achievement gap is lack of enough funds. For instance, pupils from very humble background often do not perform well compared to their financially able counterparts. They often lack supplementary learning materials that may not be provided in schools, and their general education is surrounded by debts. Another problem is poor education policies. Educational policies adopted within a particular nation may cause the achievement gap.
If there is no standard national curriculum, then the students progressing into k-12 level from different middle level schools may have difference in performance. The religion and culture of an ethnic community can also be a factor contributing to achievement gap. Culture would have influenced the educational level of parents, further influencing their perception on education. In other words, some students come from communities that are in the process of civilization. Racial, gender, or tribal discrimination, which eventually leads to inequitable access to educational facilities, is also a cause for achievement gap. Racial discrimination has been witnessed in several parts of the world, for instance, discrimination between the White and African American.
Pupils subjected to different environments will definitely perform differently even if their abilities were the same. Disability among students can also lead to a gap in the performance. If the appropriate aid were not given to physically or psychologically impaired students, then they would not be able to cope up and meet the required standards. The quest to narrow the achievement gap among the students is a collective responsibility that calls for the co-operation of all education stakeholders. To solve the problem, stakeholders should note that all students in a school could achieve the academic standards that are set if only the factors leading to the underachievement were identified and proper measures taken. Teachers are the immediate stakeholders who can blow the whistle on the occurrence and causes of the gap. The first step in dealing with the gap is for teachers to “commit themselves to engaging in deep inquiry into the nature of the problem and its root causes” (Snell 2003).
They need to accept that narrowing the achievement gap is their responsibility; thus, they take initiative both within the school and outside the school to correct the situation. Teachers at all levels should ensure that they adhere to the provision of the national curriculum. They should ensure that students with special needs are given the necessary incentives to enable them to have equal learning opportunities. In addition, they should advocate for a similar and conducive learning environment, as well as cultivate the spirit of unity and group-work among the students. Finally, even though there is very little that teacher can do in relation to cultural and economic factors emanating from families, enlightening parents on educational matters could help. Some parents are just attitudinally poor; however, a slight motivation could enlighten them. Nevertheless, community culture like preferring to educating boys over girls should be highly challenged by teachers in the parent-teacher forum.
Snell, J. (2003). Who is Responsible for Closing the Achievement Gap? The Role of School Leaders in Acknowledging and Accepting the Challenge. New Horizons for Learning. Retrieved February 4, 2011 from http://www.marthalakecov.org/~building/trans/snell.htm.