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Obama and the Achievement Gap

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Originally published on, the premier source for youth generated news throughout the globe.

Most Americans are hoping President Obama's economic stimulus package will begin repairing the nation's banking, housing, and employment industries. But transforming the nation's deeply troubled public education system is also a key goal of the stimulus. Among other objectives, school reformers want to eliminate the "achievement gap" that too often reflects (and reinforces) race and class inequalities in the United States.

At least one study suggests Obama's election in itself might, based on some measures, reduce that gap to statistical insignificance. It's a bold claim, and one Youth Radio wanted to explore. You can listen here to a round table discussion on the so-called "Obama Effect" with high school students Ahmina James and Joshlyn Patrick, along with UC Berkeley doctoral student, Chela Delgado.

An Excerpt:

So, if I were to ask you, do you believe in the Obama effect? Do you believe that this one man, because he has a new job title--even though it's a big job title--can he change the minds, and the work ethics, and the test abilities, of all these people?

Ahmina James: I do believe in the Obama Effect. Because we have women here in California, we have Congresswoman Barbara Lee, and most of the girls in my small school who know her, have seen her, talked to her, like I have, are like, "Oh yeah, I'm gonna be a Congresswoman just like her...." But before this, black young men didn't have anybody to look up to. So now that Obama's president, now there's officially no excuses.

Joshlyn Patrick: I somewhat believe in the Obama Effect. Because I do believe that a lot of kids have changed because of it. But I still see a lot of young men in the area I live in not caring that we have an African American President. It's too late for them. And that's the sad thing. It took so long for the U.S.--for us to make a change. A lot of people have already failed, have already died, or went to jail or thrown their life away, because they didn't have that role model to look up to....

Chela Delgado: To me it seems like a much bigger problem. We know that schools where students of color are are underfunded, we know that some teachers are racist and mistreat their students. We know there are real barriers that aren't just in kids' heads but that are really about racism. So I heard you, Jocelyn, say, "You can achieve, and look where Obama is." But I wonder, what do you think of those real barriers of racism? Are they still there?

Hit play below to hear the answer, and more...

Youth Radio/Youth Media International (YMI) is a youth-driven converged media production company that delivers the best youth news, culture and undiscovered talent to a cross section of audiences. To read more youth news from around the globe and explore high quality audio and video features, visit

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