What is the Belief Gap?
We hear a lot about the academic struggles of low-income students and students of color—particularly comparing them to their White and wealthier peers.
Typically, we hear these disparities described as gaps: Achievement Gap, Opportunity Gap, Wealth Gap, Discipline Gap, etc.
But there’s another gap we have to tackle: the Belief Gap.
What Is the Belief Gap?
The Belief Gap is the gap between what students can achieve and what others believe they can achieve.
How do we know the Belief Gap exists? Consider these facts:
Most low-income students with good grades and test scores don’t even bother to apply to top colleges. This is called undermatching, and it’s believed to happen largely because students aren’t aware of the options available to them.
- Gifted and Talented
Low-income and minority students are far less likely to enroll in gifted and talented programs, even when they have the aptitude to succeed in these courses.
- Implicit Bias
White teachers are much less likely than Black teachers to see Black students as college material, even when talking about the same students. As early as preschool, teachers rely on harmful stereotypes of Black children. This kind of unconscious stereotyping is called implicit bias. While these biases may be unintentional, the expectations teachers hold for students can significantly affect student outcomes and success.
Taken together, these trends suggest that some people assume the effects of poverty are too great to overcome—that impoverishment defines students—and that some kids just can’t succeed.
The Solution: Believing in All Kids
Here’s the thing: Poverty isn’t destiny.
Every day, in schools across the country, students are beating the odds. It takes hard work, engaged family members, compassionate communities, and dedicated teachers and school leaders. But it starts with a belief that students, despite their background, can succeed.
These stories of hope and progress are often drowned out, or dismissed as outliers and exceptions to the rule.
But these stories, and countless others like them, show us that when we believe in our students—by holding them to the same high standards as their peers, by giving them high-quality school options, by holding ourselves accountable for the quality of their learning—they can and do achieve great things.
Here’s a Summer School Kids Actually Want to Attend
Below is a video and transcript of TED Fellow Karim Abouelnaga on his plan to reverse summer learning loss. See how he’s helping kids improve…
Every Teacher Tried to Get Him on Track But Only This Student Knew Exactly What He Needed
During the first seven months of this school year, I struggled to find a way to motivate a ninth-grade student whom I’ll call Ameer. Ameer…
Young, Gifted And Black? Prepare To Fight For Your Education
When I moved from California to Texas at age 4, I was reading full books and writing at a first-grade level. After being iced out…
Why Poor College Kids Like Us Need to Start Asking for the Help We Need
Growing up, my parents embedded the ideology that I should be happy and grateful for what I have. My mother would say, “Aunque seamos pobres,…
I Will Stop at Nothing to Become an African-American Female Computer Scientist
This post is part of a series of posts celebrating students who are making it to and through college with the support of the KIPP…
I Don’t Want My Students to Do Well, I Expect It
Students often arrive in my classroom believing the outside world expects them to fail. Through TV and other media, my students are constantly bombarded with…
I Was So Afraid to Hit Submit on My College Application Because That Meant Leaving Home
One of the hardest things I’ve had to do was to hit the submit button on my application to Spelman because that means leaving home.…
I Was Born in a Refugee Camp in Kenya and Now I’ll Be the First in My Family to Attend College
In 1992, my family escaped the civil war in Somalia and we were randomly selected to live in a refugee camp in Dadaab, Kenya. I was born in that camp in 1998.…
I Do More Before 9 a.m. Than Most People All Day. I’m a KIPP College Counselor.
If you’re the first person to go to college in your family, then it can be an overwhelming, exciting, scary, awesome time. You still need the support of the people who’ve been there with you from the beginning.…
I’m Only 17 and I’ve Got So Much More to Do
With a name like Quincy Jones, I am destined to be successful. It is a name that will never be forgotten and a name that I plan on putting to good use.…