Achievement gap is a belief gap

Discussing racism and how it is embedded in the practices, policies, and procedures of schools makes for uncomfortable conversations. But having those conversations is essential if a school district is committed to closing academic achievement gaps, education equity leader Glenn Singleton told two full sessions of attendees Monday, the closing day of NSBA’s annual conference in Boston.

At the heart of the achievement gap is “a belief gap” over “who deserves a highly resourced education,” said Singleton, president of the consultant firm Pacific Educational Group.

Given the emotion and discomfort associated with race in America, however, conversations that get to that belief gap don’t happen often enough, he said.

As a society, “we reward people who are least conscious about race,” Singleton said, “but race matters.”

Through his seminars, books, and consulting work, Singleton and his firm guide school districts and other clients in a process to effectively talk about race and racism. The process also serves as the foundation for examining systemic racism in schools and improving student achievement.

Taking a color-blind approach does nothing to address the conditions that perpetuate predictably lower academic achievement for students of color compared to their white peers, he said.

He urged school board members to include racial equity policies in their strategic plans and to engage parents and the community in the work of systemic transformation of schools.

All students, including the most high achieving white students, benefit from a school system truly committed to the best education for all, said Singleton.

“There is no middle ground,” he said. “The work of school boards is to figure out your method to deal with racial inequity.”

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