The Achievement Gap is a Problem

by Sarah Brock on Nov 04, 2015

in Team & Family

Briannon McGloughlin was in Indonesia to study language when she first witnessed the effects of educational inequality up close. Motivated to change a broken system, she left Indonesia and joined one of the first cohorts of Teach for Australia in her home country.

There she continued to see the incredible disparities between her students in the aboriginal community she served and the education she received growing up. After two years witnessing the effects of such disparities, she decided she needed to work to find a broader solution to education inequality. Her search for solutions led her to join KIPP Houston High School to get an inside look at how effective schools can change the life trajectory for students similar to hers back home.

“I felt I wanted to help with dramatic systematic change. In Australia, kids who come from low-income households are three years behind those in high-income households. One in two aboriginal adults hasn’t completed high school, and 75% of young people in juvenile justice drop out of school before age 10. Seeing those statistics I realized a solution needs to be widespread and it can’t wait. Dozens of dozens of kids graduated and went on and I know we didn’t serve them well,” said Briannon, known as Mac at KHHS.

Briannon Joins KIPP

She reached out to KIPP co-founder Mike Feinberg and eventually joined the staff of KIPP Houston High School as an 11th grade AP English Teacher. When asked about her lessons learned from her time at KIPP, Mac shared her thoughts:

“First, KIPP coaches its teachers quite comprehensively. What happens at KIPP is that development is differentiated. The importance of teacher growth is something I’ll take with me wherever I go.

The second thing I’ve really experienced that’s shaping me is the importance of being data-driven. I didn’t fully understand what that meant, but now that I’m working more with data and tackling all those things, it’s helping me understand how we can make growth and learning less mysterious. Students do their work and get paid in the currency of grades, but it’s nice to see that shift to see grades measuring how much content they’ve actually mastered.

The last thing is that alignment in instruction we have at KIPP. We share all the data we gather about students from year to year and pass it on. We can track a child from kinder all the way through beyond college. Having the 4th grade teachers talk to the 5th grade teachers and passing on that knowledge is huge.”

Despite some of the differences between the Australian and American education systems, Mac has realized that the achievement gap is truly a worldwide problem.

“There is far more that unites us than divides us. That’s something I learned in Indonesia and it’s being underscored here in Houston. It’s the same issues – we have to serve their needs that go well beyond the curriculum. “

While Mac is still figuring out her plan after finishing her time in America this school year, she knows she’ll take her KIPP Team & Family with her wherever she goes next.

“I couldn’t do this work if I didn’t feel like I have family in Houston. With our students, I tell them you don’t get to choose your family, but you get to create your family wherever you go. I couldn’t imagine working beside people who I didn’t like. Team & Family is the culture here and people are mission-oriented and seeing that is phenomenal.”