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Strategies to Accelerate the Closure of Opportunity Gaps for Black Youth

ABSTRACT This issue of Theory Into Practice is devoted to the closure of opportunity gaps for Black youth. Why is it important to close opportunity gaps for Black youth? First, the opportunity gap was previously called the achievement gap. This change in terminology was needed to reflect more accurately that disparities in student outcomes are more accurately described by the inequitable opportunities to achieve rather than deficit-thinking that placed the blame on the Black youth. Therefore, in this special issue, we describe the opportunity gap as the manifestation of the way external factors can contribute to lower rates of success in educational achievement, career prospects, and other life aspirations (McNamara et al. 2020). This gap is sustained and exacerbated by inequitable distribution of resources such as under-resourced schools (Kitchens, 2021), lack of Black professionals in child-serving professions (e.g. Farinde-Wu et al. 2020), lack of quality teachers as more Black students enroll in a school (Jackson, 2009), the intersection of health disparities and education(Fiscella & Kitzman, 2009), and lastly recent publications have related to Black children are lacking access to appropriate social-emotional learning experiences that humanize them and prepare them for a world of anti-Black racism (i.g. Miller et al, 2022; Rogers et al. 2022). Therefore, this gap cannot be attributed solely to academic instruction nor can it be measured solely through academic achievement. Outcomes of this gap include lower graduation rates, a lack of Black students enrolled in gifted and talented programs, and an overrepresentation of Black children in special education. An example of the punishment gap (Morris et al. 2021), the disproportionate number of Black children in restrictive special education placement (U.S. Department of Education, 2021), and the percentage of Black students in the juvenile justice system (Padgaonkar et al. 2021) collectively provide oppressive conditions that lead to the exclusion of Black children from mainstream educational placements and society. These cataclysmic contributors remove Black children from learning and support a hegemonic relationship that is efficacious to all life-sustaining outcomes. In this issue, we provide nine contributions to eradicate the opportunity gaps for Black children.

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