Why the Achievement Gap? Need to work limits study time


I think one of the most important reasons for Minnesota’s big racial gap in graduation rates and test scores is the economic situation in many families. Like the majority of the Latino immigrant students I know, I have to work after school to help my family here and in Mexico. Consequently, I don’t have enough time to study or to do my homework in the evening.

I came to Minnesota two years ago to be able to go to continue my education because in Mexico my parents couldn’t afford to pay for the books, uniforms, transportation, and other things Mexican students pay for. Because my grades were good, I had the chance to get a scholarship that would pay for my books and school fees. But we didn’t even have enough money to pay for the rest of the stuff such as the transportation and the meals.

I came five months before my parents and my younger sister arrived. My older sister was already here. I started to look for a summer job and I worked in different places temporarily.

The Twin Cities become a more diverse metropolis every day. The 15 students who participated in ThreeSixty’s Intermediate Journalism camp in June reflect that change themselves. And they investigated it, sifting through the layers of immigrants’ influence on the Twin Cities like prospectors mining for golden nuggets, and emerged from camp rich with intriguing stories.

When I enrolled in high school, I left my morning job and my older sister helped me to find a job in the McDonald’s restaurant where she works. I am still working there.

School ends at 3:30 p.m. and I have to be at my job at 4:00 p.m. three days during the week and every weekend. Sometimes I have to work until 11 p.m., which limits my time doing my homework. When I don’t have to work I spend two or more hours studying.

Every two weeks, I earn about $300. I split it three ways: to help my parents to pay some bills in the house, to send to Mexico to help my Grandma and my cousins, and for myself.

At my charter school in Minneapolis, almost all my classmates are African-American and Latino, and they face similar situations. My impression is that the majority of the white students have the chance to spend the whole evening studying or doing their homework, because their parents have better jobs that allow them to offer a better quality of life. Consequently their kids don’t have to look for a job.

Another important issue is language. Is it possible for students to learn if they don’t receive all the information that they should know about topics that are being taught? As a person who is still learning to speak English, I find it difficult to develop academically.

It was hard for me to attend Edison High School in Minneapolis, where I was not at the same level as my classmates who are native English speakers. My teachers didn’t speak Spanish and couldn’t help me understand what I had to do with my class work and homework. My grades were getting worse every day.

In addition, I think that the parents’ education level affects students’ performance in school. If your parents have a degree, they encourage you to continue with your studies. If you have questions about your homework, they are able to help you or can help you find more resources. My parents want me to succeed at school, but they don’t speak English and didn’t even finish middle school in Mexico. Therefore, they are not able to help me if I have questions about something related to school.

The Achievement Gap is a huge problem that depends on the socioeconomic and educational background that different people have. School authorities have to do something to decrease the Achievement Gap that exists in Minnesota because we all have the right to develop ourselves. And we want to have the opportunity to find a better future for us and our communities.

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