Closing the Achievement Gap: Perspectives on Change

Every morning I wake up, get ready for work, and think to myself while I’m driving to work, ‘what’s the solution to this mindset of poverty? I think, ‘what can I do to make a difference in this culture of poverty?’ What am I accomplishing. And each day, when I arrive at work (in Camden), I am confronted with poverty-mindedness: attitudes, conversation, and thought processes. In addition, I am confronted with the environment in which all of this exists; confrontation submersion. How can I, as one, create change?
The common thought is that change is best created 1 person at a time. However, at that rate, and considering how long it takes for change to happen, how many are being lost? Maybe there is another way.
A wise man once said that if you truly want to help someone, it’s best to help yourself. He also said, basically, that intent to “help” others is rude and hopeless; that true hope lies in becoming the best person that one can be – not in a “greedy and selfish way” – but in a loving and ‘accepting of others’ way. It’s like — acceptance. I am accepting and acknowledging the place a person is in. From this place of humility and understanding, I am able to truly be present with another person. Here, I am of service. Here, I am not intending to be anything but here. I am not trying to make anything happen – good or bad. And it is from this place without expectation that I am able to begin being whatever is needed…which might also mean recognizing that I am not needed. Sounds like the Golden Rule right?
Enter Cap the Gap. My hope is that we are first in a place of humility and understanding. I am believing that we realize everyone is in a different “place” and is, therefore, seeking something different, even though the end is probably the same – what I am calling the Good Life. However, we individually define this phrase, we can all agree that it is good…and often better than where we are now.
As we continue to champion the ideals of quality education for all, I am hoping that we all realize that being our best allows others to be their best – wherever “best” is for us and them at a point in time.  When we stop telling people what they need and stop offering limited options (a false sense of choice)When we recognize this on a large scale, we would need to alter social service programs that are being offered and change the way education is administered to all of our youth.
Am I espousing a weird, over-simplified, and disconnected approach to a problem that is already completely understood? 

Written by Cap.the.Gap Contributor, Joshua Cooper


About Lola O.

is a self-described Reformer for urban education and advocate for students with exceptionalities. Her interest in urban education reform started in context after surviving, what she calls, the “holocaust of the D.C. Public Schools.” She intuitively knew that there where forces working against her; no one had to tell her that the odds of her graduating, going on to college, and escaping poverty were stacked well against her simply because of her zip code of 20010. She made a pact with God that if he delivered her, she would come back and help reverse these odds for students coming after her. Needless to say, God kept his end of the deal and today she is a graduate of Eastern University with degrees in Urban Studies and Political Science and plans to pursue her Master’s in early childhood administration. In 2009, she was accepted to the Public Allies class of 2009-2010. Public Allies, started under the leadership of Michele Obama, is a national movement grounded in the conviction that everyone leads; that everyone has gifts and assets that they can contribute to making their communities and society a better place. While serving as an Ally, she had the opportunity to serve with A Schools—Pittsburgh’s premier advocacy group for urban education reform. It was while in this role that she was able to deepen her knowledge on issues plaguing urban schools across the country. She returned from her time with Public Allies believing that the racial academic achievement gap is the biggest threat to the economic prosperity of historically disenfranchised communities and resolved to sound the alarm through a self-initiated blog entitled, Cap the Gap. The title was inspired by the 2010 summer BP oil spill during which the nation cried out, calling BP to cap the break in the pipe that was spilling millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf, causing economic and environmental damage that will be felt for years to come. In the same way, she believes something even more precious is spilling, and that is the lives of tens of thousands of students of color who graduate every year unable to compete in our economy. Without adequate skills, the lives of these students often spill into crime, drugs, welfare dependency, the prison system, and ultimately the grave. Her hope is to bring together a community of concerned citizens to engage in a solution base dialogue that leads to the close of the achievement gap. When she isn’t writing for her blog, she spends her time serving as a volunteer with Jumpstart, a national organization committed to closing the achievement gap by focusing on early literacy and cognitive development. Her best two hours of the week is spent reading to preschoolers at Leap%2

Posted on August 3, 2011, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Josh, my brother and dear friend;

    I am provoked to much thought from reading this “editorial” (if I can call it that). As you know, being a very close friend, I have my own opinions about this issue that (perhaps) we can share/discuss at a later time. As you know, I’ve written several blogs on many different subjects that I’m sure you’ve read on my FB page or web site. Maybe I will create a new blog to answer this editorial. Much love my brother! Keep up the good work! I’m impressed with your cognitive abilities!


  2. Greetings Blog fans!

    Per the request of my friend, Lola, I will offer more of my thoughts in response to my dear brother Josh Cooper’s thought provoking blog regarding “change.”

    First, it should be noted that my personal career is spent teaching and speaking very strongly to this issue as I journey through the communities and lives I seek to impact for positive renewal.

    As most (if not all) of us can agree, “change” is something that is found to be the most daunting task in the human experience! The question for me is why? Why is change so difficult, yet so needed?

    I believe, along with many others, that TRUE personal change can not occur except it occurs in the thought life FIRST! In fact, I teach and speak a very dominate principle about change that serves as the backbone of almost all that I do, that is;
    To sow a THOUGHT, is to reap an ACTION… to sow an ACTION, is to reap a HABIT… to sow a HABIT, is to reap a LIFESTYLE… to sow a LIFESTYLE is to reap DESTINY… to sow a DESTINY, is to reap an ETERNITY!

    The question becomes (at least for me); What will is take to change the thought-life? Many of us have been thinking generally the same way for most (if not all) of our lives!

    I personally believe that thought can not change until the influences of thought change! In other words, the influences of though, in my humble opinion, are equally as powerful as the thought itself!

    If the influence of violence is dominate in my life, why should I or anyone else expect me to think differently about it? Its NOT likely that you’ll see me advocate for non-violent issues, because my influences are violent! Therefore, its not reasonable to believe that I will think favorably for what is AGAINST my personal influence. However, if my influences change, it is then reasonable to expect my thinking to change around a particular issue.

    Many of us are so entangled by the influences in our lives that we have become downright enslaved by them! I personally call this “Environmental Addiction.” Environmental Addiction is the reason that a person will leave an incarceration or rehabilitation facility and immediately return to the people/places/things that influenced their crisis originally.

    As the Biblical Proverb concludes; “…As a man thinks, in his heart so is he….”

    If we could tap into the true power of a renewed mind, we would be limitless as to what our impact upon the world would be!

    I could go on and on about this issue, especially with respect to how we see and deal with other issues in life (i.e., relationships/marriage, career/education, family, community, politics, social problems, sickness, diet/exercise, self-esteem/confidence, personal faith, healthy living, etc). All of these issues and more are a DIRECT reflection of how we think and view them in relationship to the influences that are in our lives regarding each of them.

    Well, I’ve written enough. I don’t want to bore anyone any longer (smiles). Besides, this is just one man’s opinion anyway. I’ll digress now. God bless all who will read this blog!

    Remember this: The world feeds from all that we give it (healthy or unhealthy)!

    Much Love,

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