When We Are Looking Yet Cannot See
"If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck." In education, we do not seem to follow this simple rule. We can never address the problem of inequity in education if we continue with practices that undermine fairness. We can pretend as much as we want that we are advocating for education for all but our practices remain the single loudest testament to what we actually embrace. In education, there are gaps in achievement and excellence based on family income or race. Everyone can see this. What we often fail to see is that we insist with programs that are clearly discriminatory. The Advanced Academic Program in my county is a glaring example.
Compared to all students, children from low income families (Those who qualify for free or reduced meals (FRM)) are three times less likely to be enrolled in levels 3 and 4 of the Advanced Academic Program (AAP) in Fairfax county. The likelihood of either a Black or a Hispanic child being identified for these advanced programs is also much lower than for Asians and Whites. Students in AAP are provided a more enriched curriculum which amounts to giving privileged children even greater opportunities and privileges. We acknowledge the problem yet we insist in maintaining the practice. We try to cast a much wider net in the hope of increasing the number of historically underrepresented groups in this "elite" program, yet all we really achieve is to increase even further the disparity. More than a third of students in Fairfax county are now either enrolled in level 3 or 4 of AAP yet we do not see that we have already created a two-tier system in our schools. And in the end, we pretend we have the solutions when research tells us that there is none.
"If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck." The bottom line: AAP is simply another form of discrimination.
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