Theoretical Perspectives on the Achievement Gap – conclusion

The achievement gap in American education has been a source of concern with its association with adverse economic and social outcomes. Developing effective policies to reduce the gap remains a challenging feat with opposing theories providing much controversy regarding the causes of such a gap. Such different perspectives are for instance evident with explanations posed by theoretical paradigms in the sociology of education that this paper highlights.

Whereas the structural-functionalist approach would consider the gap to represent actual abilities of the participants, the conflict theories would explain the gap to be an outcome of the inefficiencies of the education system. The functionalism theory considers meritocracy to be a core aim of the education system but the conflict theory envisages that such meritocracy may not be achieved where systems do not offer equal opportunity to the participants. A third perspective is that provided by postmodernism, which would consider the gap to be a result of a one-sided approach to measure knowledge. Accordingly, the postmodernism view is that the achievement gap may be misleading since the knowledge metrics are biased with regard to what the assessor knows, whereas the children being assessed could also have important forms of knowledge that the assessment does not capture.

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