Praising the best, or highlighting the achievement gap?

Newsweek’s list of the 2000 best high schools in America was released this week. As I was browsing through the list I started looking at my home state of Georgia to see if I recognized any of the schools on the list. I went to high school in Gwinnett County, which has long been one of the best, if not the best, school system in the state. Of the 16 high schools in the county, half made the list.

According to the Census, the median household income in Gwinnett County is $63,079. That’s $14,000 more than the median income in the state. Upon further perusal of Georgia’s section of the list, I realized every single high school on that list is in an upper middle class or upper class area of metro Atlanta. The students whose parents make the most money are getting the best education, are scoring higher on the SAT, and are going to college.

Now, this is nothing new. Numerous studies have proven that poverty leads to poor performance in the classroom.  However, now that we have this information, I see this as a call to action to reach out to the “least of these.” We talk about education reform all of the time in this country, and yet we don’t do anything differently and effectively. I personally think where we go wrong every time is looking for a blanket solution for something that needs to be addressed on an individual basis.

I could talk about this until I’m blue in the face, but instead I’ll conclude with this quote from music journalist Johanna Keller, “This country was built on the right to a great public education for all, no matter what level of society—I fear that we are losing what has made this country great.”

*I should note that my high school did not make the list this year.

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