Education Gap Grows Between Rich and Poor, Studies Say
Some very important research that made the cover of yesterday's NYT which highlights the growing income (as opposed to racial) achievement gap:
Education was historically considered a great equalizer in American society, capable of lifting less advantaged children and improving their chances for success as adults. But a body of recently published scholarship suggests that the achievement gap between rich and poor children is widening, a development that threatens to dilute education's leveling effects.
It is a well-known fact that children from affluent families tend to do better in school. Yet the income divide has received far less attention from policy makers and government officials than gaps in student accomplishment by race.
Now, in analyses of long-term data published in recent months, researchers are finding that while the achievement gap between white and black students has narrowed significantly over the past few decades, the gap between rich and poor students has grown substantially during the same period.
"We have moved from a society in the 1950s and 1960s, in which race was more consequential than family income, to one today in which family income appears more determinative of educational success than race," said Sean F. Reardon, a Stanford University sociologist. Professor Reardon is the author of a study that found that the gap in standardized test scores between affluent and low-income students had grown by about 40 percent since the 1960s, and is now double the testing gap between blacks and whites.
In another study, by researchers from the University of Michigan, the imbalance between rich and poor children in college completion — the single most important predictor of success in the work force — has grown by about 50 percent since the late 1980s.
Hopefully this will focus more attention on this pressing issue. There are two problems, however: one with the research and one with the NYT story. Re. the former, it's not clear to me that the income achievement gap is actually growing – it's just that the top income households have MASSIVELY more income relative to the bottom income households when compared to decades ago, so this might be the driver of the supposedly widening achievement gap. In other words, what I'd like to see is a study of households with, say, $20,000 of annual income vs. $200,000, holding these numbers steady over time (inflation adjusted). The article mentions this, but the research apparently doesn't adjust for it:
One reason for the growing gap in achievement, researchers say, could be that wealthy parents invest more time and money than ever before in their children (in weekend sports, ballet, music lessons, math tutors, and in overall involvement in their children's schools), while lower-income families, which are now more likely than ever to be headed by a single parent, are increasingly stretched for time and resources. This has been particularly true as more parents try to position their children for college, which has become ever more essential for success in today's economy.
A study by Sabino Kornrich, a researcher at the Center for Advanced Studies at the Juan March Institute in Madrid, and Frank F. Furstenberg, scheduled to appear in the journal Demography this year, found that in 1972, Americans at the upper end of the income spectrum were spending five times as much per child as low-income families. By 2007 that gap had grown to nine to one; spending by upper-income families more than doubled, while spending by low-income families grew by 20 percent.
The other problem is the last line of the article:
The problem is a puzzle, he said. "No one has the slightest idea what will work. The cupboard is bare."
What?! The cupboard is NOT bare! In fact, over the past decade it's been proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that very high quality schools, filled with very high quality teachers, in a culture of high expectations, no excuses, etc. (i.e., KIPP and similar schools) can overcome the effects of poverty and that the great majority of even the most disadvantaged kids can achieve at high levels.
For example, the KIPP College Completion report (www.kipp.org/ccr) shows that 33% of KIPP's first students, who started with Mike and Dave in 1994 in Houston and 1995 in the South Bronx, earned a four-year college degree, four times the 8.3% for all low-income children and above the national average for all Americans aged 25-29 (30.6%). That number is still way too low – KIPP's goal is 75%, the average for children from the top 25% of households by income – and KIPP is making steady progress toward that goal with every class of students. I suspect KIPP will achieve it with the students who started with KIPP in kindergarten and stay with KIPP through high school (the first KIPP elementary school, KIPP Shine in Houston, started in 2004; there are now 30 KIPP elementary schools along with 61 middle schools and 18 high schools, for 109 total).
Education Gap Grows Between Rich and Poor, Studies Say
Published: February 9, 2012
WASHINGTON — Education was historically considered a great equalizer in American society, capable of lifting less advantaged children and improving their chances for success as adults. But a body of recently published scholarship suggests that the achievement gap between rich and poor children is widening, a development that threatens to dilute education's leveling effects.