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  • Mast Qalander

    I find it troubling that two white authors are trying to dismiss the concerns of many teachers of color. Despite their assertion that the "achievement gap" language doesn't have anything to do with race, look at the photo they used for the article: a picture of two black children.

    Images are powerful and need to be critiqued just as much as language does. I wonder, what was the thought process that went into choosing that specific picture?

    Also, one of Dr. Camika Royal's main points was that the "achievement gap" language is hurtful. When people from a marginalized and stigmatized group are informing you - two white authors who speak from a position of racial privilege - about how damaging this language is to their community, why are you insisting that "there is nothing wrong with using the term" instead of actually listening and learning? As educators, you should be concerned about how your support for this language comes off as imposing and oppressive.

    "Achievement gap" language places emphasis on the individual, and as Shani Jackson Dowell points out in her article, this language originated in the 1960s to describe the "educational achievement" gap between Black and White students. The phrase is heavily racialized and, as Royal states, holds "white student achievement as the universally standard goal." It completely ignores realities such as racism, poverty, and other inequities in society that impact people of color.

    We need to stop pretending like racism isn't embedded in the language we use. If you truly understand how powerful language is, then it's time to make courageous efforts for serious change. We must work to challenge structural racism and white supremacy, which, make not mistake, exists in the American education system. It is society that needs to be diagnosed here, not the individual.

  • Katia Johnstone

    I agree with the notion that the 'outcomes' or life prospects for low-incoming typically low-achieving students must be raised - and that the focus should be on the outcomes or results - however where I think where the language falls short is in stating what these outcomes should be. By calling it an achievement gap you inherently place a value on the lives and productivity of the white middle class. By saying that students who do not embody the 'achievement' of our standardized white middle class lifestyle are 'low-achieving' or are suffering from the 'achievement gap' you cut off the opportunity to create new understandings of what it means to be successful and productive. Instead of saying these students need to improve in order to measure up to their white middle class counterparts, why not use a language that gives them the right to better outcomes based on the fact that they are human beings.