New analysis of America's sixth graders in school districts across the country find that once again, class and race are the most important factors in how well kids do in school. White kids with rich parents do much better than black or Hispanic kids with poorer parents, and the differences between white and non-white kids within the same school district are often two or three grade levels' worth of performance.
We’ve long known of the persistent and troublesome academic gap between white students and their black and Hispanic peers in public schools.
We’ve long understood the primary reason, too: A higher proportion of black and Hispanic children come from poor families. A new analysis of reading and math test score data from across the country confirms just how much socioeconomic conditions matter.
Children in the school districts with the highest concentrations of poverty score an average of more than four grade levels below children in the richest districts.
Even more sobering, the analysis shows that the largest gaps between white children and their minority classmates emerge in some of the wealthiest communities, such as Berkeley, Calif.; Chapel Hill, N.C.; and Evanston, Ill. (Reliable estimates were not available for Asian-Americans.)
The study, by Sean F. Reardon, Demetra Kalogrides and Kenneth Shores of Stanford, also reveals large academic gaps in places like Atlanta and Menlo Park, Calif., which have high levels of segregation in the public schools.
In LA Unified, the country's largest school district, white sixth graders are usually score a grade level above average. White and Hispanic students score about 2 grade levels below average. Evanston, Ill. finds white students ripping the lid off tests, nearly four entire grade levels above average, and on average their parents are some of the wealthiest in the country in this tony Chicago suburb. Black and Hispanic students in the same district? Average for Hispanic and half a grade level below average for black students. A full four and a half grade levels in testing performance by sixth grade.
Washington DC? Nearly 5 entire grade levels between white and black students.
By grade 6.
Why racial achievement gaps were so pronounced in affluent school districts is a puzzling question raised by the data. Part of the answer might be that in such communities, students and parents from wealthier families are constantly competing for ever more academic success. As parents hire tutors, enroll their children in robotics classes and push them to solve obscure math theorems, those children keep pulling away from those who can’t afford the enrichment.
“Our high-end students who are coming in are scoring off the charts,” said Jeff Nash, executive director of community relations for the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools.
The school system is near the flagship campus of the University of North Carolina, and 30 percent of students in the schools qualify for free and reduced-price lunch, below the national average.
The wealthier students tend to come from families where, “let’s face it, both the parents are Ph.D.s, and that kid, no matter what happens in the school, is pressured from kindergarten to succeed,” Mr. Nash said. “So even though our minority students are outscoring minority students in other districts near us, there is still a bigger gap here because of that.”
By contrast, the communities with narrow achievement gaps tend to be those in which there are very few black or Hispanic children, or places like Detroit or Buffalo, where all students are so poor that minorities and whites perform equally badly on standardized tests.
So really, it comes down to wealthy parents who can afford to live in exclusive places can afford to provide more education reseources for thier kids. Poor parents can't do that, and more and more the public schools we depend on to try to narrow that gap are instead more segregated, more underfunded, and more divided. Even in the same school districts, the money and resources go to the "good" schools with the "good" students. Even bothering to educate the leftovers is seen as a waste, because these poorer kids are seen as, well, a waste of taxpayer dollars.
I'd say this is because of Republicans, but the truth is Democrats are just as bad at education funding, and more and more Americans are turning their back on poor districts. After all, they have their own kids to educate, right?