Updated: Mar 25, 2021
When first learning about disparities in education, I continuously heard the phrase “achievement gap”. Simply put, this refers to the different degrees of success earned by one cohort of students in contrast to another. I noticed stark differences between races, genders, and socioeconomic status, but the problem with this phrase is that it implies blame on the student’s, rather than the unequal opportunity they were given to succeed to the same degree as their peers. Achievement is not solely a measure of a student’s potential. Achievement is also affected by the resources, structure, and support a student was given to be able to succeed. Therefore, it is important to normalize the term “opportunity gap” when explaining disparities in education.
“Opportunity gap” refers to the differences in resources set in place to support one cohort of students in contrast to another. This more accurately represents the issues with our education system. Minority students, or students that come from disadvantaged communities are not being granted access to the same resources that are fundamental to success in the classroom. This means less technology, less qualified teachers, and less structural support to reach their full potential. All of these barriers are outside of the student’s control, therefore their achievements are being dictated by much more than their own ability. We need to stop using the phrase “achievement gap” when attempting to solve educational disparities, and start to take some responsibility with normalizing the phrase “opportunity gap”.