Posted by: Margaret Campbell | September 3, 2010

Thoughts on Achievement Gaps

When an individual enters a learning environment, they present a face to all those who encounter them throughout a day. Whether or not this face closely portrays a learner’s genetic background, life experiences, knowledge, and skills, the face is all that educators usually have to work with when interacting with a student.
Measures of achievement in K-12 often report only on the state of the face and probably do not give an accurate picture of levels of student mastery and insufficiency. The gaps that have been identified in achievement between cultures and social classes may exist statistically, and provide a starting point for a discussion of the general unbalanced state of educational opportunity, but the gaps need to be treated as symptoms of much larger problems.
If we get bogged down in talking about, researching, and attempting to fix the identified statistical gaps, we may lose the momentum that can carry us into more deep encounters with the nature of relationships, human exchange, information assimilation, and skill acquisition.
The role of an educator in relation to the reported gaps is rightly to participate in professional development and training that will help with identification and documentation of problem areas. However, the deep role of an educator, in relation to cultural and social differences, is to create micro and macro learning environments that encourage and reward students who support fellow students’ revelations of their in-the-moment learner-ness separate from influences that accumulated before those precious moments of learning impact.
As moments of trueness to learning occur more frequently, the falsenesses associated with bigotry, prejudices, misperceptions, socially imposed boundaries, and cultural restrictions will become more isolated, obvious, and “treatable.” It is the educator’s role to prepare for, recognize, and foster exchanges of true learning—learning without a face.


  1. Beautiful post, I like the conclusion, that true learning occurs when students are “learning without a face”. Nicely stated!

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