‘The Divide.’ – Achievement Gap


According to the National Assessment of Educational Progress report (2009), the national high school graduation rate has averaged an increase of 1.3 percent a year since 2006. The graduation rate of blacks has grown by 9 percent to 68 percent overall since 2006. However, the graduation rate for whites in the U.S. is 85 percent.

In the 2010-11 school year about 11 percent of children between 6-18 lived in a household where neither parent had earned at least a high school diploma or a GED certificate, according to National Center for Education Statistics (NCES).

According to The New York Times, math scores in 2009 for black boys in high school were comparable to black girls in the fourth and eighth grade. Black males fell behind both female and male Hispanics, and they fell behind white boys by at least 30 points, a gap similar to three academic grades.

According to the NCES, in the 2010-11 school year six percent of whites attended high-poverty schools.

Out of the 1,331 total students in AP and honors classes at KHS, 6.5 percent are black.

In the 2014 end-of-course exam for English II 52.8 percent of KHS black students scored proficient or advanced.

Out of the 314 people surveyed 79 percent believe there is a racial divide at KHS.

In the 2014 end-of-course exam for Biology, the state average for black students who scored proficient or advanced was 37.9 percent compared to the state average for whites at 73.5 percent. Out of the KHS black students, 31.4 percent scored in that range. Pattonville scored the highest of the public schools with 71.1 percent, and Maplewood Richmond-Heights, Clayton, Parkway, Hazelwood, Fergurson-Florissant, Rockwood and Mehlville following Pattonville.



Santee Nixon, business/marketing teacher

TKC: How do you believe the atmosphere would be different if there were more black teachers?

Nixon: “It would help ensure that all kiddos have a good chance of finding an advocate at this school. It ensures that a kiddo could find somebody who looks like them and also see them as a role model. Often when we do these breakout session to talk about race, usually I’m the only person in the room who can provide insight from my point of view, which is not the only point of view. I’m not the only black person in the world. But we just want to ensure that kiddos feel comfortable and get to see various types of role models so that they can aspire to be a doctor or lawyer or teacher.”


Jenny Willenborg, science teacher

TKC: What impact does the idea of an achievement gap have on the performance of black students?

Willenborg: “I think we’re starting to flip the switch and say it’s not about what they’re lacking it’s about what we’re lacking and how we’re serving them. I hope they come to see it as a conservation not where their deficit but where we’re deficit in how we’re teaching them and what environment we’re setting up for them. I think we often approach race through a colorblind lens. I think for many colorblindness equates to treating everyone like they’re white. That’s not effectively validating who someone is or appreciating what they’re bringing to the table in terms of their own culture.”


Dr. Chris Raeker, assistant superintendent of curriculum

TKC: What effect is the achievement gap having on the community?

Raeker: “I don’t know that I would say what the achievement gap is having on the community; it’s really all tied together. The community has an affect on the achievement gap, and it’s all interconnected. I think that in Kirkwood we’ve known for a while that we have some racial disparity of opportunities and of the way people are treated. But that’s not a KSD problem, I think that is something that happens in Kirkwood. However, when students don’t feel good about themselves learning and being successful in school that will impact their presence and it certainly impacts their futures. We have a responsibility to grow students who are going to have successful futures not only successful in business but also being contributors to society. That’s all wrapped up into the same package. You can’t separate that academic achievement out from really being good citizens.”


Angel Matthews, senior

TKC: What should KHS be doing to narrow the gap that they’re not currently?

Matthews: “African-American students here feel like they’re not good enough to be in an AP class. For students, like me, who came from Riverview Gardens there’s this big gap in our learning, and there’s things that we should have learned. To be on the level that you have to be on here you have to have prior knowledge of a lot of stuff. Coming from Riverview you don’t have that prior knowledge. That’s not something Kirkwood can do that’s just the consequence of where we came from. We’re lacking a lot of stuff educational wise.”


Micah Huffman, junior

TKC: Do you think KHS has made effort to close the gap?

Huffman: “As far as I’ve seen it does not seem like any practical efforts have been made to close the gap. There’s definitely been plenty of teachers who are willing and motivated to help students in need. However, there is also a part to be played by students themselves. They need to go out and look for help and try to exceed in academics, but I have not seen any progress or action taken by the school.”

TKC: What effect do you think the gap has on the Kirkwood community?

Huffman: “It reinforces a stereotype that whites are always stronger academically over African-Americans, and that’s definitely not true just because they’re African-American. Yet it seems like the racial gap is separating African-Americans and whites and creating an academic gap, too. It just shows that progress is not really being made and that we are segregating further. I think it results in a negative stereotype or connotation of blacks that is harmful to a community trying to lessen segregation and solve this issue. But also if people aren’t motivated to solve it, it makes it all the more difficult.”


Lorenzo Brinkley, walking counselor

TKC: Explain your thoughts on the achievement gap.

Brinkley: “In order to get a grasp on [the achievement gap] they need to start with the kids early. Somewhere in the system it needs to be identified where the separation starts, whether it be math, science or reading. Once the students get to high school a lot of the damage is done, so to speak, because there are basic necessary skills that are not being met prior to high school. Therefore, a lot of [African-Americans] are already behind.”

TKC: How can Kirkwood help students if they are not receiving proper family support at home?

Brinkley: “The more you expose the kid to what his or her scope is on life, then they can learn a whole lot more if they’ve been exposed to more. Kids that don’t venture out of their neighborhoods have a closed scope. It is such a disservice for kids to be isolated and his mind not be able to grow.”