Consider this: 95 percent of students have the capacity to learn to read, according to the National Institutes of Health, yet only about 34 percent of fourth and eighth grade students read proficiently, according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress. Is this disparity an achievement gap or an opportunity gap?
How we answer this question frames our thinking about solutions. If we look at the disparity as an opportunity gap, we are saying that all students have the same ability to achieve, but not all students have had the same opportunity to achieve.
Myriad opportunity gaps exist in the modern educational system—along with a pandemic that’s only widened these gaps—and are particularly prevalent among students of different races, ethnicities, and socioeconomic classes.
“The pandemic has stolen time from our children who have lost something sacred and irreplaceable this year. We will carry its impact for years to come,” U.S. Secretary of Education, Dr. Miguel Cardona stated at a recent press conference. “For too many students, your zip code and your skin color remain the best predictor of the opportunities you’ll have in your lifetime.”