The recent screening of the documentary series, America to Me, has generated much discussion about a number of important issues; perhaps paramount among them is the achievement gap.
No matter what the OPRF administration tries, some black students underperform white students. Some parents of black students argue that the school’s attempts are inadequate and are a reflection of the inherent racism of administrators. A few are so unhappy that they have moved their children to other schools.
As an anthropologist, my readings of the articles and letters to the editor suggest people are concentrating solely on the activities of the school board, administrators and teachers and their impact on the students. There seems to be almost no discussion of the significance of the student’s socio-cultural environment.
Research into how socio-cultural factors impact on the student’s school performance might be useful. For example, do students from two-parent families do better in school than those from one-parent families? Or do students who live in a social environment where most of the adults have college degrees do better than students who live with adults who do not have college degrees?
These are only two of many questions that might help us to understand the underlying causes of the achievement gap. If it is any comfort to those concerned with these problems at OPRF, I have been unable to locate any communities that have found a solution to this perplexing and serious problem.
PhD Emeritus professor of Anthropology, Temple University
OPRF class of 1953