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How Technology’S Racial Ignorance

How Technology’s Racial Ignorance is Closing the Achievement Gap

Ability grouping has been a controversial topic surrounding our education system. While grouping kids based off of individual learning needs seems like an efficient way for teachers to provide help to all students, it is more detrimental to student achievement than it may seem. Ability grouping started off as a way to organize students based on learning differences, these students were organized and assigned to groups based on how well they scored on achievement tests, whether standardized or IQ tests. These tests have been proven to benefit the more affluent as they seem to measure education and literacy compared to intelligence (Brown, 1978). Resulting in the majority of racial minority and low-income students to be classified as less-abled in academic achievement in their primary schools. These students make up a disproportionate amount of the lower group affecting them into their college education. According to the U.S Department of Education Hispanics and African-Americans are those ethnic and racial groups that are considered low-socioeconomic status and they compose 22% of the population while only 19% of them are enrolled in undergraduate programs. Statistics show that, “21 percent of those with family incomes of less than $25,000 are qualified for admission at a four-year institution” this shows how closely linked their primary education is to their postsecondary education (Snyder & Hoffman). There is a clear racial discrepancy in those labeled as below-average all around the nation as they sit on the opposite side of the achievement gap slowly getting left behind with the disadvantages they already face.

Opponents of ability grouping believe that this system promotes segregation in the classroom as the lower track group is typically composed of low-income, minority students. Once students are placed in their designated group they tend to stay there with little to no chance of moving up (Bifulco & Ladd, 2007). Ability grouping affects more than just achievement, it instills psychological damage on all students. Students in the above average group feel a constant pressure to excel in their studies. Students in the below average students feel like they lack intelligence and are incapable of academic success. This induces unhealthy self-deprecating feelings towards themselves and their abilities (Bolick & Rogowsky, 2016). This is a prime example of how the achievement gap becomes more prominent and bigger over time.

There are promising solutions, and while it isn’t too late to condemn the inequality that ability grouping produces, there are some more costly benefits that would eliminate ability grouping but would still take time. Untracking would be the ideal solution, however that requires erasing years of a system so anchored in place. However there are a plethora of other solutions to help students in the lower track groups from being placed in a cycle of complacency and disadvantage. Other solutions, while costly, are investments to further improving our education system ultimately closing the infamous achievement gap, and this includes integrating our advanced technology into schools around the nation. Incorporating technology is needed in every realistic and proposed solutions. With the help of technology students may gain more personalized curricula with accountability being set on students themselves while teaching them how to learn independently.

Technology has advanced so rapidly and the access to technology around the nation is staggering, with schools having on campus computers and internet access via smartphone or tablets. Studies show that over 86% of students own a device that has access the internet, these statistics prove that technology incorporated curricula wouldn’t be hard to incorporate nor access by students (Anderson, 2015). With access to technology being so accessible, two major solutions stand out.

In 2001, George W. Bush amended the ESEA, or Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, and passed the No Child Left Behind Act. This policy would help reform education and set accountability standards for each state to ensure which schools were falling behind in instruction and which schools excelled. This policy aimed to shine light on under-served groups of children of “major racial and ethnic subgroups” and offer equal opportunities to all students. However, this reform imposed standardized testing on all children leading to the much controversial topic of ability grouping. Ability grouping was once again a ‘popular solution’ to helping under-served children, with minorities still getting lower scores compared to whites. The implementation of standardized tests carries the same stigma associated with IQ tests. Both do not accurately determine intelligence, but rather reflect higher education levels which are mainly, and more efficiently, offered to students of the majority, setting minority students up to fail yet again. Rather than accurately measuring future academic success, standardized tests merely reflect how well a student tests, and in order to test well, students must be given adequate preparation that allows them to do well, and unfortunately, not all students are given the opportunity of higher level, and higher quality, education.

In 2015, Obama’s administration backed a bill which would modify part D of title II from the ESEA of 1965. Senator Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin introduced this bill and supports the use of technology to, “improve student achievement and college and career readiness, the skills of teachers and school leaders, and the efficiency and productivity of education systems at all levels”. (2015) This modification was then introduced at the the EETC, or Enhacing Education through Technology Act. Also explained under Title II-D, the US Department of Education states that it would, “Improve academic achievement; [through] the acquisition of curricula that integrate technology and are designed to meet challenging state academic standards.” This technology that would be integrated would be set up through programs to personalize learning for each individual student. This would mean a below-average student would have work suited to their needs that would provide extra work or more simplified work for them to catch up. All these programs would be set by state standards so all the work students do could easily be followed and reviewed by a teacher. While a great expense to the government, this integration of technology would help minority and disadvantaged students be completely literate and help them catch up to their more advanced peers. Setting programs online could also open up advanced classes which usually have a limited space to students of all levels. Classes wouldn’t be taken online, these programs merely offer help and understanding to those students that need it.

More personalized curricula and programs would make sure students are comprehending what they are learning through a set of small quizzes, it would make sure that students are paying attention to their lesson and show the teacher which part students had trouble in their lecture. It would promote teachers to pay more attention to their students needs. This data that the program would create would give the teacher an idea of what to review or go over again. This initiative supports the use of technology in schools that are considered high-need and are a poverty-lines community. This grant would ideally improve academic performance and improve access to technology. This technology would include personalized learning programs, multimedia, and new softwares. For example the Kurzweil 3000 software is one that is promoted by the act, the first priority of this software is to make sure all students are competent in literacy. It focuses on improving reading and insuring comprehension of reading for all students particularly struggling students. This easy to use software would help students complete in class assignments, homework, reading, standardized testing, etc. Findings show that in using these programs students, more specifically struggling students, have found motivation to continue their studies as they have showed increased test scores and understanding of materials. This type of instruction with incorporated technology promotes a healthy engaging learning environment for all students. Since not all students are audio learners and cant focus while being lectured too, this program incorporates different types of learning making it a useful plan for all students with individual learning differences.

After Senator Baldwin introduced this proposal it was read twice to the 114th congress and was later referred to the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee. While it was passed as a bill nor was any funding distributed it was a very plausible solution. Funding was 3 times less than the original funding yet this time it was being awarded and allocated to schools that are eligible and are constituted as high-need. The bill states and proposes digital learning, which means it would include the integration of technology for the use of:

“(A) interactive learning resources that engage students in academic content;

(B) access to online databases and other primary source documents;

(C) the use of data, data analytics, and information to personalize learning and provide targeted supplementary instruction;

(D) student collaboration with content experts and peers;

(E) online and computer-based assessments;

(F) digital content, adaptive, and simulation software or courseware;

(G) online courses, online instruction, or digital learning platforms;

(H) mobile and wireless technologies for learning in school and at home;

(I) learning environments that allow for rich collaboration and communication;

(J) authentic audiences for learning in a relevant, real world experience;

(K) teacher participation in virtual professional communities of practice;

(L) hybrid or blended learning, which occurs under direct instructor supervision at a school or other location away from home and, at least in part, through online delivery of instruction with some element of student control over time, place, path, or pace; and

(M) access to online course opportunities for students in rural or remote areas.”

This addition of technology in academics would help students of all learning differences to show more academic achievement by providing students the resources necessary for all students to succeed. These highly intelligent programs would facilitate communication between teachers and struggling students by telling teachers exactly where these students were facing difficulties. This program has an on-going monitoring system that gives teachers explicit data and offers full flexibility of adding any materials students might need such as, electronic notes and embedded explanations, etc.

These personalized learning programs aren’t cheap, but they are an investment to children’s’ futures and educational careers. Spending on the EETT programs has been as high as $700 million. In Figure 2 the graph shows how sporadic funding has been throughout the years until it came to a complete halt starting in 2010. Nearly four years after eliminating all funding for the EETT Act the Obama administration proposed a new bill with significantly less funding with better outcomes. (Cavanagh, 2015)

One of the main reasons why the achievement gap keeps on getting bigger is due to the lack of opportunities kids that are in the below-average group have access to. These kids rarely get the opportunity to enroll in any higher or advanced classes. Sonali Kohli, author of, “Modern-day Segregation in Public Schools” shows racial and ethnic disparities in advanced classes. In Figure 1, it is apparent that even though 51.5% of students in the high school are black, only 18.7% are enrolled in AP classes. Compared to white students enrollment rate more than two thirds are in these advanced classes. The Enhancing Education Through Technology Act of 2015 states that it would promote and, “(8) ensure that students have increased access to dual and concurrent enrollment opportunities, career and technical courses, and programs leading to an industry recognized credential”. Stating that students of any race, socioeconomic status, group and background will have access to higher more advanced classes and programs. This opportunity will aid in the closing of the achievement gap because access to these classes means a bigger chance for minorities and underserved community students of getting into 4 year college undergraduate programs, ultimately a chance to advance and jettison the old cycle. These classes prepares all students for college level classes and curriculum and improves achievement and academic growth while promoting independent learning.

A more frugal solution while still requiring access to technology could be the idea of “flipping classrooms”. Instead of using class time to teach lectures, class time would be used implementing and applying what was learned through comprehensive questions by using a more active learning technique. Flipping classrooms essentially means that, “content delivery is moved outside of the classroom, for example, through videos or pre-class readings” (Hudler, 2013) This learning technique keeps students engaged and promotes application of knowledge to problems. By using class time to apply what was learned instead of lecturing would help teachers preform more interactive learning environments by using class time to make sure everyone is understanding what they learned. While teachers would have to put in more effort, this initiative promotes that funding be used to also teach instructors how to use these technologies and incorporate them into their classes. This funding however proves relatively small compared to funding by other technologies. Teachers could interchange videos and lesson plans and promote diversity of teaching to students. That way minorities and disadvantaged students would be help accountable for their academic achievement and not the bias set on them by teachers and exams.

Opponents of Title II-D argue that while a viable solution, it is unfair to ask teachers to, “figure it out on their own” because not all teachers are technologically literate. The biggest problem surrounding this solution is teacher training and [continue]

Annotated Bibliography:

Cavanagh, Sean. “Obama Budget Calls for Reviving Federal Ed-Tech Program.” Digital Education, Education Week, 3 Feb. 2015, obama_budget_calls_for_revivin_1.html.

This website explains how Obama’s administration has a new proposal for the EETT act. After being around since 2002 until it jettisoned in 2010, a new modified bill came to the senate. This bill stated that by introducing technology into schools and enforcing teachers to adapt, academic achievement and equality would rise closing the achievement gap. There were new policies that would make sure it was enforced, such as teachers would now need evidence to prove they utilize technology in their academic lessons. The new budget of $200 million would be allocated as grants awarded to states to “create ‘model districts’” for local schools. These funds would grant basic technology that would satisfy a computer to students ratio, access to high speed internet. Obamas administration argued that in prior years the EETT used its budget inefficiently so, higher and stricter standards were imposed on order to get awarded the funding.

“U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin Introduces Bill to Increase Student Achievement through Technology Education.” U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, The Senate, 11 Feb. 2015, student-achievement-through-technology-education.

The information I found on this website discusses how Tammy Baldwin introduced legislation to help students and improve the education system. The proposal she introduced would integrate technology in all schools. This technology would create more engaging and interactive learning environments, create personalized learning plans for each individual student, and help teachers collect data from students around the class and would show the teacher what materials to review. This is on Ms. Baldwin’s website and it lists all of her accomplishments, programs and committees she was involved in making her a credible candidate to introduce this bill. The introduction of this bill is fairly recent, only surfacing in 2015 which would amend and add to an old Act, The Elementary and Secondary Act of 1965. These website is credible and even contains quotes from supporters of major important technological foundations in Wisconsin such as the WEMTA (Wisconsin Education Media and Technology Association President), the CoSN (Consortium for School Networking), and WASB (Wisconsin Association of School Boards) and a list of 19 different national, international and local associations supporting this bill.

Baldwin, Tammy. “Text – S.451 – 114th Congress (2015-2016): Enhancing Education Through Technology Act of 2015.”, Congress, 11 Feb. 2015,

This website allowed me to read the bill in its entirety and see how congress voted on it. While it wasn’t passed I was able to see the tracking information on the bill and read every single thing it was promoting. It had all factual information that could easily be relied on and was published on congress’s page. This source helped me prove points that technology integrated education is a very applicable solution to years of misguided grouping of students. While the bill wasn’t passed and we cant see if it would or would’ve worked I support this solution the most and find it to be a great one.

Hudler, George. “Flipping the Classroom”, 2013, Cornell University – CTI, Center for Teaching and Innovation,

Hoffman, Charlene M, and Thomas D Synder. “Low Income and Minority Students .” Archived Information – US Department of Education ,,

Anderson, Monica. “Technology Device Ownership: 2015.” Internet, Science & Tech, Pew Research Center, 29 Oct. 2015,

“Enhancing Education through Technology (Ed-Tech) State Program.” U.S Department of Education, 4 June 2014,

Explains what the censortium network is and does

Education, Kurzweil. “FEDERAL ENTITLEMENT PROGRAMS.” Grants & Funding Information from Kurzweil Education, US Department of Education funding to State Education Agencies,