Education Trust President Kati Haycock travels around the nation spreading her non-profit organization’s mission of promoting high academic achievement for all students and closing the gaps in opportunity and achievement for young people, especially those from low-income families as well as African American, American Indian and Latino students.
However, the biggest hurdle against achieving such goals remains stereotypes on race and ethnicity.
“Many educators, and frankly many other members of the public, believe that poor kids and Latino kids and African-American kids just aren’t capable of learning to the same levels of other kids,” Haycock told VOXXI. “That sort of idea that is locked in people’s heads, that kind of no matter what schools do, these kids will never achieve at really high levels. That’s absolutely our biggest challenge.”
Haycock points to data from North Carolina where high achieving non-Hispanic white or Asian students in 6th or 7th grade math will be put into 8th grade algebra roughly 95 percent of the time. For high-performing African-American and Latino students, however, that figure drops to 60 percent. Perhaps just as shocking, Haycock adds that non-Hispanic white kids in the next lowest achievement level are about as likely to be put in algebra as African-American and Hispanic students in the highest achievement category.
“The teachers say, ‘Well, we don’t want to push them, they might fail,’” Haycock said. “And we’re saying, ‘No, the data actually suggests that they’ll succeed.’”
Education Trust is also focusing on bringing high-achieving teachers into all schools and districts where there are low-income and minority students. Studies show Latino students are disproportionately placed in classes taught by less-effective teachers.
“Our job is to call attention and try to focus energy and action on identifying both opportunity gaps and achievement gaps,” Haycock said. “We do a lot with data. We’re both presenting the problem in a stark and honest fashion as we can, but also giving people sort of hope and information by showing them places that are getting the job done and helping them to understand what those places are doing.”
As for those places getting the job done, Haycock said a soon-to-be-released Education Trust report – based on absolute achievement and where the biggest improvement for Latino students is taking place – indicates how states are doing with the achievement gap.
Haycock said Maryland, Georgia, Massachusetts and Florida are doing well with Latino students, while Oregon, California, Connecticut and Utah need the most improvement.