Student Voice: West Virginia Students Speak Out About the Achievement Gap

The Education Alliance July 2004

West Virginia's Education Alliance, with support from the Benedum Foundation, engaged PK Educational Enterprises to conduct focus groups with high-school students, including white, black, and low-income youngsters. The core question was what, in students' eyes, schools should do to boost learning and narrow the achievement gap. What the analysts concluded from this fascinating exercise is expressed with admirable clarity and concision in the report's own executive summary, quoted herewith. The main point is stark: students believe that schools and educators are the cause of much of the achievement gap. "Some white students have support, encouragement, social capital, and the resources that teachers, counselors, and administrators can provide. . . . These are the 'favorite' students and schools support and nurture them. . . . However, other students, particularly lower-achieving whites, experience classism at school. It is clear to these students that some school personnel do not expect anything from them academically. These students lack support and direction from school personnel and have no meaningful vision for the future. . . . African-American students described many challenges including racism, neglect, and verbal abuse by some school personnel and disenfranchisement from academic enrichment opportunities. Even in 2004, racist sentiments and actions appear to be acceptable among some white students and school personnel, particularly in rural schools." Strong stuff. You can find it online here.

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