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There have been several recent articles about the achievement gap between black and white students in the Champaign Unit 4 schools.

I would suggest that we need to broaden our concerns. Achievement gap numbers are not unique to Unit 4. Take a look at the numbers in the Illinois State Board of Education website for Decatur, Springfield, Danville, Bloomington and our close neighbor to the east. The numbers are actually worse for Urbana schools.

Also, look at the achievement gaps for low-income versus non-low-income students. While the numbers here are not as bad as those previously discussed, they are not much better and well below the state benchmark. Could The News-Gazette editorial be correct that the definitive cause is more likely linked to poverty rather than race?

Too many low-income and black students are already behind at the start of elementary school. “... data shows that disparities in literacy during the early grades are linked to persistent achievement gaps. If children are behind by third grade, they generally stay behind throughout school.” Ask any teacher about “the fourth-grade slump.”

Per the National Education Association, “... closing the gaps and raising achievement outcomes will require more than just changes within school systems. ... Aspects of educational practice are an important part of the solution, but they alone are not enough. We must also address the social and economic factors outside the classroom that impact students’ success inside the classroom.”

What can we all do to help our schools?

LEE McDONALD

Champaign