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Jim Hill High School

Position Paper: Rationales for Discrepancies between Abilities and Achievement
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Rationales for Discrepancies between Abilities and Achievement

As a student teacher at a local high school in Jackson, I have noticed that there are several reasons why students may show the ability to master certain concepts, but their actual achievement is showing otherwise. This is evident from mere observations in the classroom, along with short discussions with the students.

From basic observations, one can perceive that there are discrepancies between a student’s ability and his or her achievement. For example, an observer may notice a student come into the classroom, puts his or her head down and puts forth no effort to complete the assigned tasks for the day. This student may not complete any of his or her work, but when asked a question about the assignment, the student can respond with a favorable response. From these observations, it is clear why the student is constantly receiving zeros (because he or she isn’t doing any of the work) which results in poor achievement. It is also clear that this student has the ability to master the concept because when asked a question, the student has no problem answering it correctly. So from simple observations, one can see that there is a discrepancy between ability and achievement among the students in the classroom.

Short discussions with this particular student can provide even more evidence. For example, if one were to ask this student why he or she came into the classroom and did not complete any work, but rather put his or her head down, one could be astonished at the student’s response. In the classroom where I do my student teaching, I did exactly that. One student told me that he wasn’t doing any of his work because he hated school and that the only reason he was in school was because his parole officer made him come. I could not believe what I was hearing. Anytime I would ask this student a question pertaining to the lesson, he could almost always answer with the correct answer, yet he would never do his work. I noticed that there was a clear discrepancy between his abilities and his actual achievement. He had the ability to do the work, but he never would do it. This resulted in him receiving poor grades, or a low achievement status.

An intervention that is currently in place for this student is to allow him to complete a great deal of his work verbally, which would at least increase his achievement scores and give him something to look forward to in school. If he knows he could perform verbally, he may gain a desire to like school which will eventually result in him completing his work on paper.

 Different students may have different problems, all of which is evidence to why there are discrepancies between ability and achievement among students. For example, another student of mine who would come in the classroom, not complete any of his work, and put his head on the desk explained to me his reason for doing so. He stated that he did not feel like doing his work because he was tired. This student comes to class tired everyday because he works long hours during the time he needs to be sleeping at night. He can not quit is job because he has the responsibility of providing for his family. This student, similarly to the student stated in the previous paragraph, had no problems answering questions verbally, he just is entirely too tired to pick up his pencil and write his answers down. When it comes time to take a test, he will put his head on the desk and not do it. Although I know this student has the ability to do the work, he doesn’t because he is too tired. As a result, he shows poor achievement in his class work and tests scores.

In conclusion, there are indeed discrepancies between ability and achievement and several factors play a role in why these discrepancies exist. Among these factors include the following: lack of the desire to excel, lack of an interest in school, and poor sleep habits. If the first student discussed in this paper would gain an interest in doing work and coming to school, he would definitely be able to match his achievement scores with his actual abilities. If the second student discussed would make some changes in his work schedule (reducing the amount of hours working), then he would be able to increase the amount of time he has to sleep at night. This change will result in him being alert in class, thus causing a positive link between his abilities and his achievement.

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