Friday, September 16, 2016

Thinking about the Opportunity Gap

What opportunities bridge the distance for students between difficulties with learning and learning success?

There are probably many lists that answer this question, but this morning as I think about student success, I want to make my own list.

Basic Needs: Food, Shelter, Clothing, Health Care (including dental), Sleep
This is the first area of concern. Are students hungry? Do they have a safe place to live? Are they receiving the health care they need? Do they get adequate sleep? Most schools have guidance departments that teachers can consult when they notice that students are not getting their basic needs, and those departments, in most schools, are responsible for helping students get their basic needs met.

At Home Academic Support
In many loving homes, there is not at-home academic support for many reasons. In these cases, schools may want to look for ways to bridge this gap with after school programming, sensitive homework policies, volunteer tutors, mentors, and coaches.

Inspiring Learning Experiences
Some students don't have access to the kinds of learning experiences that inspire a love of learning, curiosity, and quest. Schools can create opportunities to embed these kinds of experiences into their school programming, after school events, and access to clubs, summer camp, and membership to other organizations that offer these kind of learning experiences, experiences such as climbing a mountain, visiting a museum, taking a boat ride, visiting a national park, helping out at a nature preserve, and more.

At-Home Technology and WIFI
Systems can look for ways to help students access at-home technology and WIFI when that's not available. Recent studies are showing a narrowing opportunity gap for students entering kindergarten. In a large part I believe this is due to quality early childhood care and access to technology for many young children. As children move on in schools there is learning access and success distances between those who have access to technology and those that don't. (One exception here is students whose families have made a decision not to use technology early, but provide their children with substantial care and attention in a number of other ways. Often families that choose schools like the Waldorf Schools or home schooling fall into this category.)

Materials and Supplies
Some students don't have the supplies they need to keep learning. It's often a low cost and helpful solution to provide those students with the supplies they need.

This is my initial list. I will continue to add to this list as I think about the opportunity gap. What would you add?