The Belief Gap

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:

  • Undermatching
    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.

Someone believed in Kim.

Someone believed in Dashaun.

Someone believed in Lily.

Someone believed in Jabari.

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.

Because they can.

Posted July 14, 2017

We Can Love and Support Our Students Without Lowering Our Expectations

I remember the day like it was yesterday. The year was 2013 and I was in the Oval Office with President Obama to receive an…

By Jessica Waters

Read Post

Posted July 12, 2017

You’ve Heard About the Achievement Gap. Here’s 10 Ways Communities Can Help Close It.

During the new millennium, the United States faces a vital challenge—the challenge of closing the academic achievement gap between Caucasian and minority students, specifically, students…

By MDonnell Tenner

Read Post

Posted July 7, 2017

Here’s What a Win in My Classroom Looks Like and It’s Not What You Think

Malia had failed my ninth-grade English class for three consecutive quarters. She hadn’t come close to passing once. It wasn’t for lack of ability; her writing was…

By Christopher Mah

Read Post

Posted June 20, 2017

Special Education Was Created to Push Students Forward But It’s Been Used to Hold Them Back

I was a special education teacher for six years in the resource and co-teaching setting. Though I could not be more proud to be an…

By Jemelleh Coes

Read Post

Posted May 16, 2017

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…

By Karim Abouelnaga

Read Post

Posted May 15, 2017

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…

By Christopher Mah

Read Post

Posted May 12, 2017

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…

By Courtney McKinney

Read Post

Posted May 10, 2017

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,…

By Guillermo Camarillo

Read Post

Posted May 1, 2017

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…

By Jenari Mitchell

Read Post

Posted Apr. 26, 2017

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…

By Tunji Adebayo

Read Post

OUR NETWORK

Featured Posts

Posted July 21, 2017

Parents, Educators and Community Members Speak Out Against the NAACP’s Charter Moratorium

“All over the country, dedicated educators of color are leading charter schools that cultivate the minds of children too-often locked out of success in traditional public schools.”…

By Michael Vaughn

Read Post

Posted July 20, 2017

Without the Office for Civil Rights, My High School Would Have Continued to Discriminate Against Students Like Me

You may have seen the news. On July 11, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos responded to a letter written by Senator Patty Murray, which questioned the…

By Elijah Armstrong

Read Post

Posted July 20, 2017

Thought Charter and District Schools Couldn’t Work Together? Newark Has Found a Way

It’s often noted that the original vision for charter schools, championed by legendary teachers’ union leader Al Shanker and others, was that they’d be “laboratories…

By Charles Sahm

Read Post

Browse by Date

Keep Up With
Education Post

Sign up for weekly emails featuring our top blog posts:

Want more? Get our morning update and join us in #Voices4Ed.

What We’re
Tweeting