||Lauren Resnick, an educational psychologist, claims, “all students can learn to be
‘smart’" through a process called educational nurturing. In this paper, I explore
the central question: Is it feasible that policies can be designed and introduced
that will eradicate the achievement gap? I identify racism as the root cause of the
systemic problems in the United States, and name the achievement gap as the most inequitable
outcome in the education system. Because the achievement gap is racial between white
students and Students of Color, countertheories of cognitive inferiority are debunked.
Next I explore previous literature on what has worked in past efforts to close the
achievement gap. The research shows that anti-bias training that raises educators’
expectations of Students of Color, followed by detracking homogeneous (racial) grouping
are both effective methods to close the achievement gap, but they cannot be sustainably
successful alone. A third support structure needs to be in place to tie the strategies
together: AVID, a program that complements detracking, aiding students as they transition
from less challenging to more challenging classes.
AVID is a program that emphasizes equity, and is beneficial to use while detracking,
because while students are tackling rigorous course work, AVID teaches academic skills
for students to learn how to “be smart,” as Resnick mentioned. I analyzed the three
different programming site options for AVID and uncovered that the schoolwide and
district-wide AVID implementations are the most effective, with transformative results
in closing the achievement gap in both types.
My conclusion is that the achievement gap can close with the dismantling of institutionalized
racist thinking which must happen through anti-bias training for people within the
system and for those who will enter it in the future. This training eliminates stereotype
threat and raises teachers’ expectations for Students of Color. After anti-bias training
has shifted the culture of the school, the school will be prepared to implement a
system of detracking with a structure in place, like AVID, to teach academic soft
skills. Therefore, my central question is confirmed, and the title of the paper is
explained: “Yes, All Students Can Be Taught How to be Smart”: How Anti-Bias Teacher
Preparation Paired with Scaffolding of Rigorous Curriculum Can Eradicate the Achievement
For reform efforts to persist when the “groundwater” is still contaminated, there
are logical steps to follow in order to overwhelm and shake the system.
1. Analyze, influence, write, and change policy
2. Train the people within the system
3. Train the people about to enter the system
The implications concluding the paper include a policy brief with suggestions to change
K-12 policy in the US to include anti-bias training, detracking mandates, with AVID
scaffolding. Furthermore, included are ways to impact the system present-day and in
the future: a professional development plan for in-service teachers and a syllabus
for pre-service teachers.