The Voluntary Transfer Program and the Racial Achievement Gap in PAUSD


by : 
Talia S.


The “achievement gap” is the persistent disparity in educational performance among various groups and is a commonly discussed issue in today’s society. In reality, there are numerous achievement gaps: the gender achievement gap, socioeconomic status achievement gap, learning disabilities achievement gap, and the racial achievement gap. When people talk about a generic achievement gap, it is generally assumed that it is the racial achievement gap. But why is race inevitably linked to underachievement? Many people fail to see that this racial achievement gap started hundreds of years ago and is a result of historically discriminating against minorities. Just because we no longer support discrimination laws does not mean we are suddenly a color-blind society. “Historical conditions create a social and psychological environment for African American students, including peer sanctions for ‘acting white,’ that causes disengagement from or devaluing of school and therefore poorer performance,” (Fordham and Ogbu 1986). In other words, our country’s history of discrimination has created a negative learning climate for African American students. When they value academic success or other “white values,” they are looked down upon or given a penalty by their peers. Economic discrimination and inequality are caused by an unbalance in things such as job availability, wages or prices of goods and services. This, along with national health and housing policies that put minority children and their families at risk, are forces that drive minority academic underachievement. “Roughly a third of the black-white achievement gap can be attributed to measured family characteristics” (Jencks and Phillips 1998), which are factors such as income, education level, and race. “We cannot talk about children at risk without making those connections, without recognizing the pervasive, negative effects of racism on our educational institutions and on the children those institutions must educate. For educational disparity is part of a social web of inequality” (Jacob, 1991). “Because high-minority schools are low achieving on average, the concentration of minority students in these schools may perpetuate racial achievement gaps and especially harm high-achieving minority students” (Hanselman, 2014). When students feel that the general consensus of the larger community is that minority students are underachieving, they are more likely to have lower expectations for themselves and consequently perpetuate the negative stereotypes. The questions guiding this research are: “How does busing minority students out of their home district affect their self-identity and self-confidence?” and “How does busing minority students out of their home district affect the racial achievement gap in the district to which they are bused?”