The term “closing the gap” has been used in education a lot lately, as in, “We need to work to close the achievement gap between all students.” Everyone nods their heads and sets to work on figuring out how we can close this gap. No one questions the original premise.
I am here to tell you that the entire premise of “closing the gap” is dead wrong.
Last summer, my school got punished by the state of Michigan for having too large of a gap in test scores between our highest-achieving students and our lowest-achieving students. It didn’t matter that our lowest students were actually doing quite well, with the majority of them actually passing our state assessment (even with its newly-raised cut scores). No, what mattered was that our highest-achieving students basically crushed the state assessment, with many of them getting all or virtually all of the questions right. That created a performance gap between our highest and lowest-performing students, and the state attacked us for it.
Just to make sure this is completely clear: We were punished by the state of Michigan because our top-scoring students did too well.
That’s absolutely asinine. To make matters worse, we weren’t alone: 10% of schools around the state received this same treatment. Thankfully, in my school, we had administrators who were wise enough to understand that this was insanity, and that we weren’t going to sabotage our higher students in an absurd attempt to “close the gap.”
But I fear for the hundreds of other schools out there that received the same treatment. Based on what the State of Michigan did to them, it would be in their best interests to sabotage their best students — to make sure they don’t get ahead of the other students in their learning, or even to ask them to get questions wrong on purpose on their state tests — in the name of “closing the gap.”
That’s the true evil here. We are rewarding schools who produce data showing that all of their students are about the same. What will that mean for the future of G/T education? When we throw everything we’ve got into making sure that No Child is Left Behind, aren’t we also really saying that no child can race ahead? After all, if one student races ahead of the pack, aren’t the rest now behind?
What does it mean for our future when we no longer cultivate (or even tolerate) genius? What does it mean for the future of education when schools are punished for students being “too smart?”
From now on, whenever you hear the term “closing the gap,” your BS radar should go off. Don’t accept that as a worthwhile premise or goal. Advocate instead for ALL students to be taught in a way that allows them to learn as much as they possibly can, the “gap” between them be damned.