Perspectives on Whole Child Literacy

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Keys to Bridging the Achievement Gap: Race, Income and Education

Categories: Education & Teaching, Educators, Student Centric Learning, Teacher Best Practices, The Digital Age, Webinars

Dr. Almitra Berry headshotAddressing the critical mass of students underperforming in reading is a major concern. In this blog, Dr. Almitra Berry, CEO of A L Berry Consulting, Inc., raises some thought-provoking questions about equity and access and the keys to bridging the achievement gap. Dr. Berry is a nationally-recognized expert and author on culturally and linguistically diverse learners in America’s K12 education system. She says, "To achieve equity, we must have a fuller understanding of children's backgrounds regarding race, income, and education.”

Research on Provision Gaps 

Dr. Berry's research focuses on provision gaps, equity*, and related challenges during the coronavirus pandemic for students of color with low-wealth who attend large, urban school districts. She says in the United States, there is a direct correlation between students’ race, income, and educational outcomes, and encourages teachers to revisit their knowledge of what we know about children’s equity status in the pre-kindergarten years. 

“Research tells us that children from low income backgrounds are far more likely to stay at home with a parent or caregiver with no means of learning activities versus affluent students attending preschool or daycare with robust learning environments. Understanding of each child’s earliest years (birth to five) is critical to their ability to make learning progress. As importantly, we must educate ourselves to the latest findings about the science of reading and how we approach teaching children to read.”

Dr. Berry suggests that to change the dynamic of learning, we must recognize that diverse students are often marginalized, but believe that all children have the capacity to learn. “If children come to school with less knowledge than their peers, we must give them more of what they need -- more instruction, more background knowledge, more culturally-relevant books, more understanding about their preschool years. This can change the course of early childhood in spectacular ways," says Dr. Berry. In her recent 2021 Spotlight on Early Literacy discussion, Dr. Berry posed these indicators and questions for consideration:

Equity Indicators vs. Access  

  • Meritocracy - How well does your curriculum and instruction result in equal outcomes in reading, writing, and reasoning? 

  • Standards - How well does your curriculum and instruction result in all students' demonstration of mastery of a standard?

  • Impartiality - How well does your curriculum and instruction result in social justice and reflect the child’s needs? And, how well do we know our own social biases? 

  • Asset Allocation - How equitable are curriculum assets chosen and highly qualified educators allocated to result in educational opportunities and academic excellence for all children? How frequently do we give students culturally-relevant books to identify themselves in the learning process?

By providing in-depth, explicit evidence-based reading instruction, giving more equitable access to curriculum, including culturally-relevant books and time to read, as well as paying attention to students’ diverse backgrounds and social and emotional beliefs about learning, we can help more students remain in general education and study with their peers. 

Listen to Dr. Berry's full presentation on-demand about equity and access and earn a CE certificate.  

To learn more from the nation’s top literacy experts and leading practitioners, sign up for our upcoming Spotlight series.  

*2015 article in the Hechinger Report excerpting a 33 country study estimates that the achievement gap in the U.S. between rich and poor is thirty-seven (37%).

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