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Week 5 (Makeup): Hughes again

December 2, 2011

Prompt: How have your own experiences in the educational system compared to or differed from those we talked about during our visit to Hughes High School? What does it mean to say there is a national “achievement gap” or “opportunity gap” and what are the repercussions? Realizing that as University Honors students you could be considered the top 1% of the country in terms of your educational opportunities, where do you go from here?

When I was a student at Sycamore, our classes weren’t tightly linked in the same way that the Hughes classes are with STEM. They repeatedly emphasized how much they made teachers collaborate on assignments and work in teams, starting with the interview process. That was mostly absent from Sycamore, except when two classes were in similar subjects. For example, my World History teacher urged us to take AP Euro when the time came to pick next year’s classes, and all the Chemistry teachers collaborated regularly on demonstrations, culminating in a really spectacular Halloween demo. So collaboration sometimes developed on its own, but it wasn’t enforced and there was no overarching theme of STEM. It seems like Hughes is the sort of solution Block would like: one that solves a problem by creating connections in the community.

Saying that there is an achievement gap means that some groups of students (low-income students and African-American students) are doing much worse – the gap is measured in years – than others. In other words, our education system is not helping every student reach their fullest potential, which means the country as a whole is not as educated as it could be. The fact that it is limited to low-income students redoubles the problem, because without education, their families will continue to stay at a low income and have less chance of ever narrowing the gap.

Malcolm Gladwell, in “Marita’s Bargain,” explains that the main cause of the achievement gap is a difference in retention. Even if the school is perfectly effective, over summer vacation, students tend to forget things. However, students from high-income backgrounds have opportunities to keep their skills sharp over the long break (such as through summer camp) and so they pull ahead during the summer. So if I’m going to get involved with some effort to close the achievement gap, my summer break is probably the best time to start.

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One Comment
  1. Jessica permalink

    Thank you for expanding on your reflection from Hughes. Though you incorporated some ideas from readings, you did not properly include citations or fully address the prompt. I think you highlight some very important points, all of which could have benefited from more expansion in your discussion.

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