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A Review of the Achievement Gap

Essay by   •  February 29, 2012  •  Research Paper  •  2,008 Words (9 Pages)  •  736 Views

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Upon reading the first portion of the essay, which entailed a deep insight into how the philosophy of education adopted by African Americans was fostered over generations- freedom for literacy and literacy for freedom, racial uplift, citizenship, and leadership- and has been embedded in the African American narrative tradition ( Perry, 2003, p. 10). The piece of this section that was most interesting to me was the notion of why African Americans sought an education in the first place. According to Perry (2003), African Americans pursued learning because this is how they asserted themselves as a free people, how they claimed their humanity (p. 11). Learning was pursued as a means to withstand racial barriers, break through and see liberation come to surface, and as a means to prepare yourself to lead their own in the fight against racial injustices. The narratives shared in part one of the essay speak further to this interpretation of the African American philosophy of education, which was no doubt interesting as it again proves that our society frequently, and consistently, is mirrored in our education system. While I found these narratives nothing short of inspiring and uplifting, I was most interested to see how this generated philosophy of education in African American culture, harvested over years of oppression, struggle, and perseverance, could be in any way related to the achievement gap educational administrators and legislators are struggling to fix today. This question was merely posed in part one of the essay, only to be answered later on. I do, however, find the first part to be intriguing on the grounds that it got wheels turning; this set philosophy of education that was festered as a means of achieving personhood, but for what generations, perhaps present generations, is this educational philosophy still held dear?

When I began reading part two of the essay, I instantly connected the topic of cultural differences, specifically language, to my teaching experience in Hawaii; it was only fitting that Hawaii was cited as a specific example of a controlled experiment conducted to test differences between standard pedagogy-that being the classroom that is built with the ideas and standards of the language of mainstream America- versus culturally responsive pedagogy. There was a distinct connection between culturally responsive pedagogy and improved school performances, especially through the tilling's of Carrie Secret, a teacher from Oakland California who adopted a culturally responsive pedagogy in here elementary classroom- one of the only classrooms, and schools, where African American students were achieving by standards in place from standardized testing (Perry, 2003, p. 56). Based on my own personal experience dealing with language barriers, I have to say that I am not surprised that the adjustments made by Ms. Stevens were effective. The idea of "talking story, as referenced in the study conducted by Kathryn Au, is nothing short of the norm in a Hawaiian classroom. All of my students were local, with the exception of a few students who had parents in the military, and brought their home language to school. It was quite the adjustment for me, but being a first year teacher, I decided that I was not going to be on dimensional. I opened my eyes and ears and caught on to the tendencies and barriers between their Standard English and the English I had grown up learning- the standard mainstream white English. I quite frequently altered my classroom practices and assessments to best fit the language of the students; I found, as did Ms. Au, that when students were asked to participate in a group discussion about a poem or historical event (given that I taught History and English), they were more open to sharing their ideas and thoughts when given the opportunity to talk story and verbalize their opinions in a language they felt comfortable using. Creating a safe and somewhat altered environment for students with language barriers proved to be effective as I had C and D students receiving A's and B's; other teachers were not on board with my teaching practices, which was frustrating, because while students were allowed to talk story and verbalize their answers to test questions to me utilizing their "home" language, we often, like Ms. Stevens, had mock interviews where students would evaluate one another on their verbal skills and how they could better market themselves in professional settings. Regardless, I can say that I personally have had great experience working with students with language barriers and have practiced, myself, a culturally responsive approach to teaching. It was very interesting to be able to relate so closely to a highly debated topic referenced in the text!

Additionally, in the second part of the paper, the case of Martin Luther King Jr. v. Ann Arbor School Board is brought to surface to disprove, or provide evidence disproving, Ogbu's theory of Social Mobility, inconsequently attributing more validity to the theory of Cultural Differences. The Cultural Difference theory makes sense to me, perhaps because I have encountered this scenario in my own teaching practices and have practiced creating a culturally responsive classroom. When the tables turn to Ogbu's theory of Social Mobility, however, the correct interpretation which I am to be deducing renders some confusion. Ogbu points out the main problem with the Cultural Difference Theory; it does not explain why some groups whose cultures were different from mainstream, such as Asian-Americans, did not experience disproportionate failure, but rather success (Perry, 2003, p. 59). Rather, he concluded that being a racial minority does not necessarily predict school performance, rather, it is the terms of the group's incorporation into the host society and the group's social position in that society that predict and explain school performance (Perry, 2003, p. 59). Ogbu then describes the difference between an the two forming's of an immigrant minority and castelike minority- which is where African Americans fall. Having been oppressed by the host society for decades, he argues that for castelike minorities, the point of comparison is the dominate group; if their life chances

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