“Achievement gap” is a common term in education that refers to the difference in achievement measures between two demographic student groups. Usually, this refers to the difference between white students and students of color, but it can sometimes offer reference to differences in achievement between male and female students, or students at different income levels.

“Achievement gap” ascribes lower rates of school success on the children themselves rather than on the unequal opportunities they receive. This unfairly places fault on the student. It also dwells on the past, rather than looking forward at how we can solve the issue.

Differences in student achievement by demographic group are the unacceptable result of an opportunity gap: the unequal and inequitable distribution of educational resources and opportunities that results in radically different levels of academic success for children based on their race, zip code and socioeconomic status.

Opportunity gap is a much more accurate description of what is happening. We still might use “achievement gap” sometimes to explain ourselves and make sure the people with whom we communicate can understand us. But Hiawatha Academies often use “opportunity gap” in our daily speech and writing as a way to challenge the status quo and invite a conversation about what we know to be true about the inequities in our school systems.