One of the overriding goals of educational reformists is to erase “the gap”. It refers to the difference in academic achievement (among other things) between whites and blacks. Despite decades of effort, the gap stubbornly refuses to disappear. Intensely focused (and very expensive) effort can temporarily erase the gap, but the effect on academic achievement disappears after 3 years of the end of those efforts.
What educational researchers are recognizing however is that there isn’t just one gap anymore. The traditional gap remains of course, but the gap they are beginning to take notice of is the gap between Asians and every other group at advanced levels. Most of these educational studies only concern themselves with the low end of the spectrum. Policy makers are traditionally concerned with bringing those in dire academic straits out into proficient territory. But a new report by the Center on Educational Policy actually takes advanced levels into account. What they find is that in general, every group is trending in a positive direction in both reading and math. But Asians in areas like Maryland and Virginia are out-trending other groups at the advanced level.
Fairfax officials said they hadn’t studied the issue. “When we look at the achievement gap, we look at white and Asian students on one side, and African American and Latinos on the other,” said Fairfax County Public Schools spokesman Paul Regnier. “That particular gap isn’t something we’ve looked at specifically.”
Right. That makes sense. No one should pay attention to what makes the highest scoring group tick. There’s absolutely no reason to put resources towards helping high achievers push to new heights. It obviously makes more sense to put millions of dollars and an enormous amount of mindshare into erasing a gap that has persisted despite decades of evidence that interventions don’t make a difference.
What we need is to push more people who can barely graduate high school into college by requiring them to take Algebra II. Taking Algebra II is the leading indicator of success in college and work, therefore making that a requirement for graduation is the logical next step. We all know that the direction of causation there is that simply taking a math course leads to better lifetime achievement and not that the students currently opting to take that class are simply smarter than the ones that don’t. No, that couldn’t possibly be the case.