Closing the Achievement Gap: What Teachers Can Do

School districts across the country are struggling to close the achievement gap- the differences in educational performance among students of different races, genders, and socioeconomic statuses. As educational attainment is one of the strongest predictors of health and well being, the achievement gap presents a great threat to our nation’s youth.

The achievement gap most commonly affects students with disabilities, students who are learning English as a second language, and students from low-income areas. While the gap has decreased for certain groups over the years, it still poses a serious issue that demands attention.

Standardized test scores, math & reading levels, and graduation rates are all measures of the achievement gap. On average, African American and Hispanic students fall behind their white peers in each of these areas. The following theories might explain why the gap exists:

School quality

Students in low income areas often suffer from a lack of quality teachers and instruction. Researchers argue that improving these areas could narrow the gap. This involves reforming bilingual instruction, special education programs, and improving the conditions for students in low income schools. 


Many students are segregated by their socioeconomic status, which puts a disproportionate amount of minority students in underfunded schools. Research shows that integrated schools can help close the gap by reducing dropout rates and improving academic outcomes. 


Access to early childhood education programs remains unequal for minority families in the United States. African American and Hispanic children are less likely to access high quality preschools than their white peers. Evidence suggests that investing in these programs can reduce the gap by enhancing a child’s development and creating long-term benefits for them in school.

Home environment

Socially disadvantaged students are typically exposed to more early life stressors than their affluent peers. The role of parenting may also contribute to the gap, as research shows that high income parents are more likely to engage in home literacy activities and spend time with their child than low income parents. 

Closing the achievement gap is crucial not only for youth, but for the future of our nation. Over time, it creates lasting effects for students, schools, and the community. 

The social barriers that African American and Hispanic students face explain why they are more likely to fall behind or drop out of school. This is reflected in the differences of college enrollment and completion rates between minority students and white students.

In today’s society, lacking a sufficient education can create many consequences for one’s health and well being. Low educational attainment often leads to unemployment and low-wage jobs, and this is one of the reasons why income inequality persists in America. 

In light of the research around the achievement gap, it is clear that action must be taken to reduce these educational disparities. While there is not a one-size-fits-all solution, there are things that educators, policymakers, and even parents can do to help narrow the gap.

What Teachers Can Do to Help Close the Gap:

Make time for student self-reflection

Allow your students to review their past assignments so they can reflect on what they learned. Encourage them to look for what they did well and what they can improve on. Building a classroom culture of self-reflection can ensure that students are working towards fixing their mistakes. 

Include culturally relevant texts and topics

Culturally relevant teaching will encourage your students to connect the course content with their cultural identities. When students feel represented in the classroom, this can make a positive difference in their school performance. This is why it’s important to include books, films, and lessons about different cultures in your classroom.

Develop relationships with parents

Increasing parent involvement is a key component in closing the achievement gap. Including parents in the conversation can better equip them to help their child succeed in school. Close cooperation between the school and home has a strong impact on student achievement. 

Track student progress

Keeping track of your students’ progress is a great way to pinpoint their areas of improvement. This can help you set realistic yet challenging goals for your students to achieve. This can also make them aware of their performance and where they should focus their attention. 

Educators play an important role in closing the gap. Their approach and instruction are crucial aspects of a child’s educational experience, and this gives them the potential to make a significant difference in the lives of their students. 

Want to know more about closing the achievement gap? Check out “Closing the Achievement Gap: What Parents Can Do”

Also see: Closing the Achievement Gap – The Role of Policy

For additional information, please contact Austin Kids Can! Today!