The term “opportunity gap” is employed to describe the incongruity in academic achievement between low income students who are often students of color and their affluent and typically Caucasian peers. According to Teach For America, the terminology referencing the impact of poverty and discrimination on academic disparity has moved away from being called the achievement gap and toward the phrase ‘opportunity gap,’ as the former term faults marginalized students abilities for their lack of achievement rather than analyzing socio-economic factors, and the term “opportunity gap” suggests that given the proper resources and opportunities, all students can achieve.
As if the opportunity gap wasn’t frustrating enough, the rise of the COVID-19 pandemic could call for a widening of the gap and new frustrations for low income families. Considering that the pandemic has made all schools turn to virtual mediums to carry out the school year, children who come from families that don’t have high speed internet, own a laptop or smart device and are quarantined in homes that are distracting and unstable are bound to perform at lower rates than their classmates who don’t experience these issues. An article in the Washington Post discusses the tribulations that may come with virtual learning during this pandemic and states that the achievement gap between low-income and higher income children is equivalent to at least two years of schooling and the corona virus shutdown could possibly expand that by another half year. This realization is problematic because it underlines that even when all parents are at home with their children during quarantine, a gap develops from higher socioeconomically placed students receiving better homeschooling environments and tools because their parents have the means to operate a high curriculum home school for them that marginalized parents cannot.
As awareness of the opportunity gap increases and COVID-19 threatens to widen the rift between high income and low income students academic success, the next logical question to ask is how do we wedge the gap? To begin, we must realize that the gap will not be mended by the school system alone and changes will need to be made in neighborhoods and families combating financial oppression and racial discrimination. We must level the playing field by giving the same opportunities that are given to middle class and privileged students to marginalized groups so they can succeed at the same rates as their peers. In addition to dispensing resources and opportunities, encouraging students to continue education outside of school and after the school year has ended can help mend the gap. It is no secret that students lose information over the summer, and children who participate in curriculum during their summers achieve at higher rates than those who don’t. Pushing extracurricular academic systems such as our program, KidAlytics, can be beneficial in attempts to wedge the opportunity gap because the program works to equip students with information that can not only be applied in the classroom, but in day to day life. propelling them into the workforce of the future. KidAlytics focuses on building students' passion for analytics, through leveraging real time data to track student performance and create individualized learning, a quality that is often overlooked in many schools which further provokes the gap.
The opportunity gap is the product of poverty and discrimination, and with the rise of COVID-19 it increasingly complicates student achievement. There are steps that can be taken to begin wedging the gap, however institutions, educators, families and students must work together because it cannot be done solo. For more information on our programs visit the About tab and feel free to contact us via email at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information!
Mooney, T. (2018). Why we say “opportunity gap” instead of “achievement gap. Teach for
Strauss, V. (2020). Why covid-19 will ‘explode’ existing academic achievement gaps.