Problematizing the Racial Achievement Gap-A Systems Perspective

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At West Wind, we believe the system was perfectly designed to get the results it is getting. Thus, we seek to problematize the racial achievement gap by reframing the problem from one of failing students to one of a failing system. While this most certainly includes inequitable resources and inequitable distribution of highly qualified teachers and principals, we believe these are just symptoms of the larger systemic problem—an enduring belief in the inferiority of students of color, their families, and their communities. A new study by Marvin Lynn et al (2010) illustrates this point.

Lynn et al. examined how teachers’ and administrators’ understood the problem of African American male underachievement in an all-black, low-performing high school, and how those understandings impacted their ability to work successfully with such students. They found that school personnel overwhelmingly blamed students of color, their families, and their communities. Further, Marvin et al. tell us that “the school was pervaded by a culture of defeat and hopelessness” and that “ongoing conversations with a smaller group of teachers committed to the success of African American male students revealed that the school was not a safe space for caring teachers who wanted to make a difference in the lives of their students.”

The full article is available through the Teacher College Record here.

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