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It’s Time to Close the Opportunity Gap

 

The opportunity gap, also known as the education achievement gap is the disparity in academic success between groups of students – groups by race, student ability, family income, etc. A report published by the Center for American Progress – “The Economic Benefits of Closing the Educational Achievement Gaps” aims to explain why closing this gap is so important to our social and economic future in the U.S.

Nebraska’s population of children of color is growing, much like the population in the rest of the country. Last year’s Kids Count Commentary showed us that 38% of Nebraskans are expected to be some color other than White non-Hispanic by 2050. Currently, children of color are falling in to the opportunity gap in Nebraska.

One place this is especially evident is in 3rd grade reading proficiency. In Nebraska in in the 2013/14 school year,  21% of overall students scored below proficiency in reading, but when you look at students who are proficient by race disparities emerge.

We need to be very concerned about the 4,792 children that are missing the mark, especially since nearly half are non-white. If we fail to address the disparity in reading scores the impacts on our population will be widespread.

The report shows that closing the gap will results in faster economic growth and an increased GDP and a better workforce with increased productivity that would more than make up for the initial investment in education necessary to close the gap.

In order to close the opportunity gap, investments must be made in early childhood education, criminal justice system reform, raising minimum wage and increasing paid sick leave. A holistic approach must be taken to close the opportunity gap and in turn improve the economy. Nationwide, and here in Nebraska, we’re not just helping individual kids when we close the student opportunity gap. By making the correct investments now, we can ensure that future Nebraskans are able to reach their full potential and contribute to a robust economy, and that benefits all of us.

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Comment(1)

  1. REPLY
    Robert says

    Thanks for explaining what this article means by “the opportunity gap.” There are other sites where such terms are tossed out with no good explanations of their meanings.

    However, there are problems with defining the “opportunity gap … as the education achievement gap ….” To see the why this definition has issues, let’s take an example. It is well known that blacks dominate many fields of athletics – especially sprints. O.K. now – why do blacks do so well? Is it because whites and Asians are not given an opportunity? No – of course not. It is because blacks have more natural ability. The same principle applies to the education achievement gap.

    As the article states, “38% of Nebraskans are expected to be some color other than White non-Hispanic by 2050. Currently, children of color are falling in to the opportunity gap in Nebraska.”
    Comments:
    1. With the increase in the percentage of non-whites in Nebraska and in many other states, it is time to ask, “What, if anything, should be done?” Before I get into any details, I am going to assume that most of us want to help these people to be able to help themselves and to be financially independent of the state and various handouts.
    2. In general, there are two options: we use intervention to help them or we do not use intervention.
    • Through intervention, the government and numerous private groups are actively trying to help these people. And they probably are helping many of them. However, this help is not sustainable. Additionally, most of the programs are actually hurting some of the segments of our population that are most “at risk.” Furthermore, if we project the rate of growth beyond 2050, we eventually have so few taxpayers, that these intervention programs will collapse due to a lack of funds.
    • The issue of the different birth rates for Latinos vs. non-Latinos is a very big issue. As most of us know, the bulk of these Latinos are from Mexico. Thus, we can reasonably expect that much of the United States will be a northern version of Mexico.
    • If intervention programs worked, we would expect to see those cities and states that have the most intensive intervention programs would have the fewest problems. This means that liberal cities (with large numbers of blacks or Latinos such as Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago and Detroit) would have virtually no social issues. But, as we know, these and similar cities are over flowing with many race-related problems.
    Another issue is the entrance of the poor into the middleclass. In order to do this, we need to reduce income inequality. So, how is this done? If fixing the environment would fix these problems, we would expect that the most liberal cities and states would have the most income equality, the smallest achievement gap etc. This is, of course, the opposite of reality.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_U.S._states_by_Gini_coefficient To quote economist Milton Friedman, “In the only cases in which the masses have escaped from the kind of grinding poverty you’re talking about, the only cases in recorded history, are where they have had capitalism and largely free trade.” http://www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/5001.Milton_Friedman

    Nebraska and other states should have policies to start weaning Latinos of funds from government programs. If they do not, it will only be a matter of time before Nebraska’s cities become mid-western versions of Detroit and the state falls into an economic abyss (similar to that of California). See http://www.alec.org/publications/rich-states-poor-states/ and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demographics_of_the_United_States .

    Article: In order to close the opportunity gap, investments must be made in early childhood education, criminal justice system reform, raising minimum wage and increasing paid sick leave. A holistic approach must be taken to close the opportunity gap and in turn improve the economy. Nationwide, and here in Nebraska, we’re not just helping individual kids when we close the student opportunity gap. By making the correct investments now, we can ensure that future Nebraskans are able to reach their full potential and contribute to a robust economy, and that benefits all of us.
    Comments:
    1. Investing in early childhood education will not close the gap but will, instead, increase the gap. This is because this kind of intervention will allow those students with the most potential to exceed. And, as some readers may know, blacks, Latinos and whites have IQs of approximately 85, 90 and 100, respectively. Additionally, intelligence has a large genetic component.
    2. Likewise, “criminal justice system reform, raising minimum wage and increasing paid sick leave” will not have the desired effect.
    3. When making sociological or economic decisions there are at least two thoughts (which are not necessarily mutually exclusive):
    a. Principle – We have certain principles that we use in making our decisions.
    b. Project to future – We identify a scenario (actual or proposed) and project the logical results of that scenario.
    4. Now for the principle – Assuming that we have principles, they should be based on reality. For example, let’s say that we have a principle that everyone is kind, generous, clever and hardworking. If we later learned that this is not true, we would then need to change this principle. So, what is the best principle? The best principle is “reality.” I like to call this “reality based decision making.”
    5. When we project into the future, (as mentioned above) we see that an increasingly large percentage of the population will be minorities. Additionally, under our current programs, these people will continue to be a burden to society. Due to their low IQ, lack of education, cultural and political traditions (including their distrust of Americans as well as other minorities), they will not understand what is happening to them. Thus, the lives of many minorities will not be improved by intervention and they will have one more example of the hatred of evil, white Americans.
    6. One more tidbit about the above quote from the article – it states, “By making the correct investments now, we can ensure that future Nebraskans are able to reach their full potential and contribute to a robust economy, and that benefits all of us.”
    Comments:
    a. I am certainly in favor of students reaching their full potential but I doubt that the policies, as described in this article, support this effort. As we know (as addressed above), not all students have the same potential. IQ is a measure of this academic potential. Therefore, we would expect that whites (with an average IQ of 100) would show more progress than most minorities (with blacks having an average IQ of 85). The end result is that the achievement gap will increase.
    b. Additionally, there is no reason to believe that most of these minorities are interested in contributing to a robust Nebraska economy. To illustrate, “An overwhelming majority (69 percent) of people in Mexico thought that the primary loyalty of Mexican-Americans

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