Opportunity gap refers to the unequal access to resources between various groups due to factors like race, ethnicity, social class, etc. When it comes to kids, the unfortunate reality is that some get to study in the best schools and have access to the best educational resources that set their life on the trajectory of success.
In contrast, some kids are left with a substandard education. Improving the quality of education programs given to lower-class children is the only way to close the opportunity gap and ensure that they have as much a shot at success as children from better schools.
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Closing the opportunity gap
One of the most important opportunity gaps among children exists in reading. Since reading is the foundation of education, kids who cannot read properly will have a hard time performing well academically. “The 2017 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) results show that more than 6 out of 10 U.S. 4th graders are not reading at grade level. For low-income students in high-poverty schools that statistic jumps to 8 out of 10 students reading below grade level… Up to half of the printed fourth-grade curriculum is incomprehensible to students who read below that grade level,” according to Book Nook Learning.
The National Research Council believes that the potential success of a student can be predicted to a good extent by checking their reading skills at the end of the third grade. A child who is unable to at least read modestly by this time has a very low chance of even graduating from high school. It is, therefore, necessary that sufficient resources be allocated to schools so that kids are able to read well by the third grade.
Investing in such programs is hugely beneficial to society. One study found that for every dollar that is invested in quality childhood education, the taxpayers ended up saving up to US$13,000 in future costs. The savings came from decreased welfare payments, lower crime rates, fewer funds spent on special education curriculums, and so on.
A report entitled The Promise of Adolescence: Realizing Opportunity for All Youth finds that white, higher-income youth have better educational outcomes than low-income, minority youth. While 51 percent of white students were found to be proficient in math, only 19 percent of black students were good at the subject. “The way heredity is expressed in behavior depends significantly on influences in a person’s environment… Protective factors in the environment — such as supportive relationships with family and caretakers, and access to resources — support positive trajectories, while harmful experiences may lead to at-risk or poor trajectories,” says the report (The Journal).
A great example of an educational entity that successfully closed the opportunity gap is the Sanger Unified School District (USD). Between 2004 and 2012, Sanger USD moved from being one of the lowest-performing districts in California to a top performer. How did the district achieve it?
“Sanger’s success was aided by long-term investments in a stable, well-prepared teaching force; a culture of collaboration among and support for teachers; a proactive leadership pipeline; professional learning communities at all levels for continuous improvement; and shared accountability within schools and between each school and the district,” according to the Learning Policy Institute.
By 2012, the majority of Sanger’s 20 schools had high student achievement rates that were comparable to schools with similar demographics. In fact, Sanger won several Blue Ribbon awards for their excellence in education.