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We Don't Say 'Negro' So Why Are We Still Using 'Achievement Gap'?

We need to define student outcomes on absolute rather than relative terms, and send the term “achievement gap” back to the 1960s.


This is the final 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.

The term "achievement gap" first showed up in academic papers in the 1960s. It referred specifically to gaps in educational achievement between white and black—then called Negro—students during desegregation in New Jersey. In coining the term, researchers were highlighting the need to expand educational opportunities for black children, which was no doubt a good intention.

I have had a long-standing pinch with the term—though I struggled to articulate why—until I read a recent post by my fellow Teach For America alumna Camika Royal, which helped me more fully explore that discomfort.

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