5 Ingredients for Educators on Closing the Opportunity Gap | Edchat

This week’s afternoon #edchat discussion was about the opportunity gap. We tackled the ultimate question: How do we ensure those without privilege have equal access to quality education and opportunity? As a Teach for America alum and a regular #edchatter, I left this discussion filled with much left to reflect on about the opportunity gap.

@michellek: If education is supposed to be the great equalizer, then make it happen with equal access. #edchat

I look at this quote and think, isn’t that what the United States is all about – education and opportunity having the power to close these gaps? Then I remember my amazingly capable yet “left behind” students, my extremely underfunded school, my misguided administration, my clueless state representatives and think, if only!

Teach for America Aims to Eliminate Educational Inequity

Teach for America’s mission statement is that “One day, all children in this nation will have the opportunity to attain an excellent education.” The mission of Teach for America is to build a movement to eliminate educational inequity – not to fill teacher shortages.

While some like Larry Ferlazzo oppose Teach for America, insisting that TFA is not in the best interest of students and most alumni leave after 2 years, I question whether or not those in opposition have ever talked or collaborated with a TFA corps member, parents of students taught by corps members, or the students themselves.

The truth is that Teach for America is aware that enlisting and training high-quality teachers is a step, but not the end all solution. Instead, there is a deep belief that the best hope for ending educational inequity is to build a massive force of leaders in all fields who have the perspective and conviction that come from teaching successfully in low-income communities. More than 60% of Teach for America alumni stay in the education field after their two-year commitment – with most working in the K-12 field, while more than half of beginning teachers leave education within the first five years.

A recent study released by the non-profit organization surveyed nearly 2,000 Teach for America teachers working in the front lines on their beliefs about the causes and solutions to the achievement gap. The findings were shockingly similar to the #edchat discussion. Increasing teacher and instructional quality as well as maintaining consistently high expectations of students were among the top solutions suggested.

#edchat Recap: 5 Ingredients for Closing the Opportunity Gap

1. Consistently High Expectations – NO EXCUSES

@smcgon: Inequity happens when teachers don’t truly believe all children can learn. #edchat

There is this notion that kids without privilege cannot learn and that their parents and families don’t care about their student’s achievement. We, as teachers, need to stop making excuses and set the bar high for every student. My students’ families were extremely dedicated to their students, working two and sometimes three jobs to provide for their kids. They may not have always been available to make it to a back to school night, but they cared about their students and they care about their learning.

2. Quality Administration, Instruction, and Teachers

@Jpsteltz: the one common denominator for all students is the teacher…if teacher is effective, all students have access #edchat

@rkiker: @rliberni I believe good teacher make edu happen regardless of resources. #edchat

We need higher quality administrators, higher quality instruction, and higher quality teachers in our nation’s most at-risk schools. The question is, how do we continue to recruit, train and KEEP quality administrators, teachers, and instruction in these schools?

3. Adequate Funding and Resources

@EightFalls: Equal funding for every student regardless of where they live or their test scores? #edchat

@tbfurman: Reliance on property tax builds in a poverty penalty as well as a basic inequity. #edchat

Another problem is that we base funding on test scores and property taxes. It is a self-destructing circle of inequity. Some of the lowest funded schools are in the highest need. However, it isn’t just about funding. Funding is often poorly allocated and cannot increase teacher, student, and community expectations.

@edtechsteve: If we’re talking about helping stdnts born into poverty, need 2 stop talking about $$ & start talking relationships #edchat

4. Advocacy, Relationships and Community

@bjnichols: Equity requires being a strong advocate for the students that you serve. We have rscrs because we go out & find em #edchat

@shellTerrell: We start by building relationships w community & business leaders! #edchat

@rkiker: @ShellTerrell Local community connections are key, they want to help, use them! #edchat

As teachers, our most important responsibility is to advocate for our students. Working with the community to find resources, provide role models, and increase involvement is one of the most valuable things educators can do for at-risk students.

5. Political Change Agents

@spedteacher: It is in the interest of the power class to prevent those without power from attaining it. #edchat

@wmchamberlain: #Edchat To affect change in our nation today we need to be politically active. We need to create an ed reform party.

Whether or not you agree with @spedteacher that the opportunity gap is deliberate; we can all agree that we must stand up and be the change agent our students need – not only in our classrooms and our schools, but in our states and nation as a whole.

Photo 1 from the Education Equality Project

Photo 2 from Teach for America

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