Parent Voices: On the Achievement Gap

By Ariba Qureshi on May 3, 2016

As parents, we strive to ensure that our children have the best opportunities available. We send them to schools where we hope that they will receive a great education that will set them up for life-long success. It is common to hear: “I want my kids to do better than I did.” So, the question remains. Do all students have access to an equitable education?

Recently, a national education nonprofit, Education Cities, released the first national report that examines how schools are addressing the achievement gap. The data examines over “forty-two states, fifteen thousand cities, seventy-eight thousand schools, and forty-three million children. By doing so, a comprehensive report was created to analyze and measure the performance of students from low-income families at the school level to the average performance of all students at the state level.”

I’ve spoken with parents across Davidson County. Their children have a variety of talents and challenges; they speak many languages and observe different cultures; and they learn in unique ways. All parents express the same sentiment – no matter their zip code – every child should receive a high-quality education. Today, I am excited to share letters from Jasiel Martinez and Dawn McFarland, parents of students at STEM Prep and Knowledge Academies, respectively. At both of these schools, their children have been embraced as family by their teachers and fellow students. Their teachers and classmates set high-expectations, which has caused both students to thrive and excel academically and emotionally. Nashville Rise is working to ensure that every child has the opportunity to achieve his or her potential, and with successes like these, we are moving in the right direction.

Click here to read the Education Equality Index.

Dawn McFarland
As a mother of three children, I experienced the challenges families face every day in Nashville schools. After overcoming many hurdles, my youngest daughter now attends Knowledge Academies. For years, I knew that she needed additional support, but my plea for help was not answered until Knowledge Academies. The staff at Knowledge identified that she needed an Individualized Educational Plan AND they created a nurturing and positive environment. At Knowledge, families have the opportunity to grow and achieve together. I am thankful my daughter has this support, but I recognize that not all families in Nashville have these advantages. I wonder: “Why not? Why can’t we provide the same opportunity to all students no matter their zip code or income level?”

A national education organization, Education Cities, just released a report highlighting Nashville‘s rapidly growing achievement gap between students from low-income communities and their more advantaged peers. Before the panic sets in, let me share some good news. There are public schools in Nashville – that primarily serve low-income families – with a small or no achievement gap. THAT is cause for celebration! Click here to see the top ten Nashville schools closing the achievement gap.

In a time when Nashville is an otherwise “IT” city, what will we do about this achievement gap? I challenge the city’s leaders to study and celebrate these public schools that are closing the gap. And, to ask how we can replicate these practices district-wide. So, let’s work together so all children have access to equal educational opportunities!

Jasiel Martinez
When it comes to choosing a school for our children, sometimes we may select the one closest to us without worrying if it is the best. This is not the case of the parents committed to STEM Preparatory Academy. We already took on the task of investigating opportunities for our children, and we arrived at the conclusion that there was a good school, new to the area, but full of promise.

Personally, my daughter has attended STEM Prep since the fifth grade and we have learned, grown and changed in good ways through the help and communication from the teachers, school staff and the great support from the founder, Dr. McGraner.

Now my daughter is in the ninth grade, and I am very happy. The years pass rapidly, and the good thing is that the school continues to be at the forefront of education. STEM motivates its students to advance to the university level, which is main goal of our school, that our children have more opportunities to go and graduate from college. STEM Prep not only supports the students, but also us as parents. That support, among other efforts, is why STEM Prep is closing the achievement gap. The students are focused, and the teachers and principal are interested the education of our children. As of today, we are a family because we are always informed of the projects, programs and progress of the school and the students.