The term “opportunity gap” refers to the ways in which race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, English proficiency, community wealth, familial situations, or other factors contribute to or perpetuate lower educational aspirations, achievement, and attainment for certain groups of students.
In September 2015, the New York Times published a piece titled, “Education Gap Between Rich and Poor is Growing Wider”, in which the author, Eduardo Porter, explains how improvement in educational outcomes must be taken with a grain of salt. Educational outcomes for African-American children improved in the decades followingdesegregation, yet these gains have been undermined by another gap, one between rich and poor, which has opened wider than ever.
In the United States, race is tied to class. During 2007-2011, 25 percent of Black or African American people experienced poverty, in contrast with the national rate of 14 percent, and 11 percent of white people. In other words, the same population of students continue to experience unequal outcomes, despite the various labels used to describe this inequality.
Low socioeconomic status means that children experience a myriad of disadvantages that go far beyond education. Beginning in kindergarten they are already more than a year behind, are less likely to matriculate to college, and are less likely to afford enrichment opportunities beyond school. They are more likely to have been born to a teenage mother and live with one parent only: they suffer from higher obesity rates, and have more social and emotional problems. Over time, these disadvantages perpetuate a cycle of poverty and disadvantage. One statistic that Porter does not mention is that African American men who drop out of high school face a nearly 70 percent cumulative risk of imprisonment.
We know that the opportunity gap impacts Apprentice Learning students. Across the three schools with which we currently work, 71 percent of students are low income. Apprenticeships inspire career dreams, expose students to professional, caring adults who are not their family or teachers, and provide access to professional settings. As a result, our students gain self-confidence and prepare for the future.
In the early 19th century, famed education reformer (and Massachusetts native) Horace Mann fought hard for education to be the great equalizer. Disparities indicate that education alone will not close the opportunity gap. Apprentice Learning represents one comprehensive strategy to help Boston students succeed.
The link to the full New York Times article can be found here.