Many black and Latino children in America are given apples and expected to make lemonade.
In America, the achievement gap refers to the difference in Black, Latino, and White students’ average levels of educational achievement (Young). White youth achieve more on average than black and Latino youth. Only 72% of black and Latino youth in America graduated high school in 2012, while 85% of white students graduated nationwide. In 2013, only 4.6 million black and Latino high school graduates attended college compared to the 10 million white high school graduates that attended college (NCES). This achievement gap exists because minority children aren’t as rich in cultural capital as their white counterparts.
The majority of black and Latino children aren’t as privileged as me. I was an A and B student throughout elementary, middle and high school, and I now attend Hamilton College, an elite college. How did I get here?
Although I’m not very rich in terms of economic resources, growing up in a single parent household with my little brother and a single mother who failed to receive child support from both of our fathers, I’m rich in cultural capital. Cultural capital is the general social tastes, preferences, and knowledge of how to skillfully navigate society. It is learned through one’s education, and socio-cultural background.
Growing up in Boston, I was surrounded by educational opportunities and programs. Massachusetts was ranked number 1 in education in 2014-2015 (Bernardo). I was fortunate enough to go to a collegiate charter high school. My graduating class had only 62 students and two college counselors. The school funded college tours around Boston and even out-of-state. As a junior, I began creating drafts of my personal statement; I kept working at it until my college counselors gave it a 100%.
I was involved in many extracurricular activities, especially sports. I played baseball, basketball, and tennis. I worked at a makerspace and entrepreneurship center, where I launched my art business as a sophomore. I was even a part of my school’s debate team. However, my high school and the support I had were by no means the norm in this country for Black and Latino children. There is a lot of progress to be made in other cities and states around America (The Nation’s Report Card). Many esteemed American cities like Washington D.C. lack good education systems. Washington D.C., the nation’s capital, where so many intellectuals, politicians, and judges live fails to educate the children that live in the same area (Bernardo). D.C. is ranked 50th in the nation. In Washington D.C., only 64.6% of black and Latino students graduated high school compared to the 84.5% of white students that graduated (OSSE); these rates are worse than the national average.
The achievement gap in Massachusetts is much smaller. In 2015, 75.8% of white high school students graduated while 69.6% of black and Latino high school students graduated (Massachusetts Department of ESE). So what has the State of Massachusetts done right in their education system to close the racial attainment gap?
In 1993, Massachusetts decided to focus on improving public education. The Massachusetts Education Reform Act of 1993 set out to reform local education systems throughout the state (Horan). Resources were allocated to revise curricula, and update facilities and equipment, including new books and working computers. Programs were also created to provide more college prep for students. Since the 1993 reform, a higher percentage of kids have been graduating per year Boston’s 4-year graduation rate has climbed from 59.1% in 2006 to 70.7% in 2015 (Horan). Academic performance in the classroom has surged. Boston should and needs be looked at as a national leader in education reform
If not, the achievement gap will continue to exist. If so, the American state and federal governments are illustrating their apathy for America’s failing education system that claims no child should be left behind. Why have legislation like the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 if its basic premise is not being practiced?