Two Graduate School of Education professors argued that systemic educational reform is necessary to close the achievement gap during a discussion on educational inequality at an event Tuesday.
The event, titled “The Achievement Gap: Who Gets Left Behind and Why?” and sponsored by the Harvard Foundation for Intercultural and Race Relations, featured Katherine K. Merseth and Susan M. Johnson, who both teach at the GSE.
Both professors touched on the debate over whether states or the federal government take responsibility when it comes to education. Merseth said education is part of state as opposed to federal responsibility.
“The word ‘education’ does not appear in our Constitution," she said. “Should a child in rural New Mexico know what a child in the city of Chicago knows?”
Johnson added that differences in education quality do not only occur between states but also within states.
Merseth criticized programs like Teach for America for their high teacher turnover rates. Participants in these programs teach in poverty-stricken areas, but leave their students behind in just two years, she said.
“These are children who have been abandoned,” Merseth said. “They’re beginning to develop their own social identity that ‘nobody cares about me.’”
Student moderator and Harvard Foundation intern Nuha Saho ’18 said he appreciated the range of opinions provided by the two professors, both alumni of the GSE.
“The coolest part of the event was that they didn’t come in with the exact same ideas,” he said. “They basically learned from each other but they actually still differ on things.”
The other moderator, Brenda Esqueda ’20, said the discussion brought up more questions about education than she had previously anticipated.
“The contrast in opinions was amazing,” said.
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