Modern education in the US faces a considerable problem of underachievement of African American students in comparison with their White counterparts. The problem spurred a large body of research on the matter, trying to understand the factors that affect the achievement of students in school. Some researchers believed that cultural and racial differences do not matter, as academic achievement is affected only by social, familial, school, and economic factors (Gilar et al., 2019). However, others found significant correlations between racial identity and academic achievement using rigorous research methods (Wang et al., 2020).
Frontiers in education and curriculum development claim that the central reason for the underachievement of African American students is the inadequacy of current curriculums (King, 2017). Students do not see themselves in literature and cannot relate to the experiences and facts discussed in classes. Thus, it appears that a curriculum change is needed to address the problem of underachievement of African American students.
Current curriculum is predominantly White, which implies that history and literature of minorities are often overlooked. However, what is important for Whites may not be important for African Americans, as they have other cultural identities. For instance, July 4, 1776, means less for African Americans than June 19, 1865, or Juneteenth. At the same time, the history of African Americans is often misrepresented in the school curriculum.
One of the most vivid cases of such misrepresentation was that Black slaves were pictured to be content with their position as slaves (King, 2017). While such racist descriptions are no longer present in the modern curriculum, the majority of textbooks are still written from the point of view of White people. This often leads to the fact that teaching about black history is narrowed down to slavery and the civil rights movement. In other words, the modern curriculum uses Eurocentric ideologies to narrate the history of the United States.
Inadequate curriculum leads to at least two factors that contribute to the achievement gap between Black and White students in K-12. On the one hand, African American students cannot relate to the stories told in the history classes and writing studied during literature lessons (King, 2017). This leads to a loss of interest in studies, which eventually leads to decreased academic performance (King, 2017).
On the other hand, African American students start to picture their cultural identity as a vulnerability or misfortune (King, 2017). Even in the schools which are predominantly Black, teachers fail to take the opportunity to narrate the history of the US from the perspective of the lived experiences of African Americans. Thus, the current situation of the curriculum contributes to the achievement gap between African American students and their White counterparts. Therefore, achievement gap is a considerable problem, which needs to be addressed in the nearest future.
Gilar, R., Veas, A., Miñano, P., & Castejón, J. L. (2019). Differences in personal, familial, social, and school factors between underachieving and non-underachieving gifted secondary students. Frontiers in Psychology, 10, 2367-2377.
King, L. J. (2017). The status of black history in US schools and society. Social Education, 81(1), 14-18.
Wang, C., Fan, X., & Pugalee, D. (2020). Impacts of school racial composition on the mathematics and reading achievement gap in post unitary Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools. Education and Urban Society, 52(7), 1112-1132.