by David Safier
An excellent op ed in today's Star is worth a look: Richard Gilman's State leaders turn blind eye to socio-economic factors at 'bad' schools. Since BfA readers have seen this issue covered in my posts, I won't go over the column in detail. Gilman argues, with convincing facts and figures, that state scores for Arizona schools are more the result of the students' socioeconomic status than the quality of administrators, teachers and curriculum (John Huppenthal, are you listening?).
Today's NY Times has a more comprehensive column on the subject written by Sean F. Reardon, a Stanford education and sociology prof: No Rich Child Left Behind. Reardon shows that educational inequality is rising along with income inequality and actually trumps educational inequality due to race. The whole piece deserves a read, but here are some of its major points:
- "[D]ifferences in educational success between high- and lower-income students have grown substantially . . . about 40% larger than it was 30 years ago."
- "Before 1980, affluent students had little advantage over middle-class students in academic performance . . . [T]he rich now outperform the middle class by as much as the middle class outperform the poor."
- Test scores have risen for every socioeconomic group over a generation, but the income/education gap has widened because scores of higher income children have risen more rapidly.
- "The achievement gaps between blacks and whites, and Hispanic and non-Hispanic whites have been narrowing slowly over the last two decades, trends that actually keep the yawning gap between higher- and lower-income students from getting even wider."
- School readiness tests taken when children enter kindergarten show the income/education gap is already there before students enter school, meaning schools themselves are not the cause. "[T]his gap grows by less than 10 percent between kindergarten and high school."
The author doesn't see the answer in more testing or school choice or "tough love" to punish schools whose students don't perform well on state tests (John Huppenthal, are you listening?). Schools, he writes, are not the main problem. The author wants to see more time and money spent on early childhood enrichment which will narrow the gap between children entering kindergarten from lower, middle and upper income families.