What about the advocacy gap?

One contributor to the achievement gap that people don’t seem too focused on these days is what, in this old post from Out In Left Field, I have called the “advocacy gap.” 

On the other hand, I’m wondering whether the ways in which The Powers that Be in education are trying to narrow the achievement gap have made even this amount of advocacy totally ineffective.

The Advocacy Gap

On a listserv for gifted kids a parent recently reported on how hard she’s had to advocate in order to get her son the appropriate enrichment and acceleration. Her efforts included:

  • Meeting with th teacher throughout the year, sometimes along with a staff development specialist and principal, beginning in summer before school started.
  • Communicating concerns to the PTA board members and raising issues at PTA meetings.
  • Attending curriculum nights and other programs and bringing relevant information back to her school.
  • Continually sharing articles with her children’s teachers and school administration.
  • Twice bringing the directors of the enrichment program to the school to meet with the principal, vice principal, staff development specialist, and teacher.
  • Also bringing in the school improvement director.
  • Several times calling up the curriculum office to pin down what exactly schools should be providing to advanced students and then passing on this information to the school.
  • Consulting with various gifted child advocacy groups on how to best advocate.
  • Having her son undergo standardized testing and having the scores sent directly to the school.
  • Volunteering in the classroom whenever possible in order to maintain positive relationships and give teachers more time to provide individualized instruction.

Even with all this, the parent, who happens to be a chairperson of the PTA committee for gifted children, “still had to continually follow up to assure that my son was receiving instruction at his ability level.”

What happens to kids whose parents don’t have the time—or motivation—to spend all this time to attend meetings, consult with experts, track down articles, secure testing, volunteer in the classroom, and build the portfolio of affiliations and connections needed to be taken seriously?

Given the extent to which effective advocacy depends on parental time, resources, education, networking skills, and the confidence that you can get the system to work for you, a big part of the achievement gap is the advocacy gap. 

Or, alternatively, the gap in who has the time and resources to homeschool. For this, especially in the more retiring left-brain world, is the obvious alternative to constant advocacy. It probably consumes about the same amount of time—with a lot less stress and tedium, and a great deal more satisfaction for all concerned.

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