Achievement or Opportunity Gap, a Great Teacher Makes it Disappear

A Nashville high school student says the real achievement gap at her school "is figuring out if you want to apply yourself or not."

This is the third post in a five-part series from Teach For America corps members and alumni about the use of the phrase "achievement gap" both within the organization and the wider education community.

There are two types of teachers in the world: a teacher who cares about their students' performance and a teacher who doesn't. What we have in schools is not an achievement gap—it's an opportunity gap—and with the right resources, there is no gap. Resources do not have to be material things such as money for proper textbooks. The best resource for a student is a teacher.

I was fortunate to attend KIPP: Nashville, a middle school where the teachers never underestimated us. The majority of the students at my school were African Americans from North and East Nashville. Teachers knew our potential when we didn't.

At KIPP: Nashville, we didn't have any math textbooks, but that didn't stop us from learning in our math class. We didn't have a proper library, but that didn't stop our English teachers from sectioning off a quarter of their classroom for a "mini-library" so we could still read books.

Those are just a few things my teachers did for us to show us there is a way to learn and be outstanding without the things other privileged students had. We wanted to be the best middle school in Nashville. Nothing was going to hold us back and nothing did. Not once in my middle school years did I hear anyone say anything about an achievement gap. Looking back, I wonder why the achievement gap was never talked about back then.

After leaving KIPP: Nashville, I went on to high school at The Harpeth Hall School, an all-girls private high school. I've never once heard the term "achievement gap" spoken here. There’s no reason for it. I have all the textbooks I need, and a wonderful library and teachers that care. Maybe the real reason I don’t hear the term is because in Nashville there is no school better than Harpeth Hall. Harpeth Hall is a majority white school where everything and everyone in it is charged to help its students be the best prepared for college.

The real achievement gap here is figuring out if you want to apply yourself or not. Prior to Harpeth Hall, I learned at KIPP to apply myself to reach the goals I want in life no matter how hard it is. That was the word to live by, because there were limited resources. There is another factor thrown into the term achievement gap and that is wealth regardless of race. Money knows best, right? At Harpeth Hall there is an abundance of resources and all you have to do is try. The gap here is between what you say you are and who you really are.

There shouldn't be any racial connection to the term achievement gap, but there is. Who is to say that the white community should set the bar for what our nation’s education system aspires to be? A long time ago, when there was a true achievement gap—when African Americans had little to no access to education—that was an appropriate time to try and model the education systems of the white community. Now things need to be shifted in a new light. Hard work and dedication should set the bar for our nation.

A version of this post originally appeared at Pass The Chalk

Elementary student with teacher image via Shutterstock


Some beauty pageants, like the Miss America competition, have done away with the swimsuit portions of the competitions, thus dipping their toes in the 21st century. Other aspects of beauty pageants remain stuck in the 1950s, and we're not even talking about the whole "judging women mostly on their looks" thing. One beauty pageant winner was disqualified for being a mom, as if you can't be beautiful after you've had a kid. Now she's trying to get the Miss World competition to update their rules.

Veronika Didusenko won the Miss Ukraine pageant in 2018. After four days, she was disqualified because pageant officials found out she was a mom to 5-year-old son Alex, and had been married. Didusenko said she had been aware of Miss World's rule barring mother from competing, but was encouraged to compete anyways by pageant organizers.

Keep Reading Show less

One mystery in our universe is a step closer to being solved. NASA's Parker Solar Probe launched last year to help scientists understand the sun. Now, it has returned its first findings. Four papers were published in the journal Nature detailing the findings of Parker's first two flybys. It's one small step for a solar probe, one giant leap for mankind.

It is astounding that we've advanced to the point where we've managed to build a probe capable of flying within 15 million miles from the surface of the sun, but here we are. Parker can withstand temperatures of up to 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit and travels at 430,000 miles per hour. It's the fastest human-made vehicle, and no other human-made object has been so close to the sun.

Keep Reading Show less
via Sportstreambest / Flickr

Since the mid '90s the phrase "God Forgives, Brothers Don't" has been part of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point's football team's lexicon.

Over the past few years, the team has taken the field flying a black skull-and-crossbones flag with an acronym for the phrase, "GFBD" on the skull's upper lip. Supporters of the team also use it on social media as #GFBD.

Keep Reading Show less