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Tuesday, May 11, 2021

College not required: Youth program aims to shift focus beyond achievement gap

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Studies have shown that when comparing the rates at which students of color graduate from high school and college to those of their white counterparts, a chasm exists. However, according to educator Tamiko Jordan this “achievement gap,” as it has come to be known, needs a different approach. 

Jordan, founder and executive director of Beyond the Gap, wants to equip Black students with the tools necessary to be successful adults — with or without a college degree — by closing the opportunity gap.

“Closing the achievement gap, that’s a bunch of baloney,” she said. Jordan, who holds several education degrees, was formerly a principal at Indianapolis Public Schools and vice president of programs and administration with the Center for Leadership Development (CLD). “We cannot continue to talk about closing the achievement gap. That’s about, ‘Tie with me. Don’t go any further than I am.’”

Lack of opportunities is what hinders many Black youth from becoming productive citizens. Jordan says the old adage that Black people must work harder to be as successful as white people still holds true, regardless of education background.

Beyond the Gap will meet students where they are and take them further — whether the student advances to college, seeks employment or becomes an entrepreneur, she said. 

“We already know that only 52 percent of children — white, Black or otherwise — attend college, and even more of them flunk out because it’s not there, it’s not for them to do at that moment,” Jordan said. “We have to stop making our children think that if you don’t go to college you’re somehow worthless, and that’s what Beyond the Gap does. This is not just college prep. Baby, this is prep for life.”

Closing the opportunity gap requires a multi-pronged approach. Beyond the Gap targets youth from early childhood into young adulthood, but Jordan says parents, community members, educators and youth mentors also play vital roles in creating high-achieving youth.

“We’re helping parents to understand what your rights and responsibilities are in the school system,” Jordan said.

For educators and youth mentors, Jordan created the professional development workshop “When Race Enters the Room,” which teaches racial literacy.

Avondale Meadows Academy teachers recently participated in the workshop. Principal Sarah Lofton was pleased to see her staff eagerly challenge themselves to discuss the uncomfortable topic of race.

“My other takeaway is that the conversation can’t stop there,” Lofton said. “Teachers left really excited about the conversations that were had, so I’d like to explore how we can build on that.”

According to a recent study on school segregation by the Center for Evaluation and Education Policy (CEEP) at Indiana University, “The average Black student in Indiana attends a school where 68 percent of the students are nonwhite.”

However, most of the teachers in those schools are white and middle class, so it’s imperative they understand the role race plays in the classroom. Using this data could be a step in that direction, says Jodi Moon, an author of the study. 

 

Educators and youth mentors interested in professional development workshops can contact Tamiko Jordan at (317) 536-5050 or tamiko@beyondthegap.net. For more about Beyond the Gap, visit beyondthegap.org.

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