Poverty and Education
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The following figures from the report tell a lot about poverty and education:
Public schools in the US provide free lunch to children of poor families. Eligibility for free lunch is therefore a good measure of a child's poverty and with reading scores in both grades, 4 and 8, children who are coming from low income families are not performing as well as other children in reading.
The scores above are from standardized tests which are used by colleges for admissions decisions. It is very clear that scores in this exam strongly correlate with family income.
In the above figure, those who were born in the 60's are being compared with those born in the 80's. Looking at the entire picture, it is obvious that a lot more are finishing college. Unfortunately, the increase is not happening uniformly across all income levels. Most of the marked improvement in college graduation is occurring among the top income quartile.
While education has been envisioned as the great equalizer, this promise has been more myth than reality. Today, the achievement gap between the poor and the non-poor is twice as large as the achievement gap between Black and White students. The tracking of differences in the cognitive performance of toddlers, elementary and middle school students, and college-bound seniors shows substantial differences by income and/or poverty status. These differences undoubtedly contribute to the increasing stratification in who attends and graduates from college, limiting economic and social mobility and serving to perpetuate the gap between rich and poor.The above simply states the problem. What needs to be done? The report recommends the following:
- Increasing awareness of the incidence of poverty and its consequences
- Equitably and adequately funding our schools
- Broadening access to high-quality preschool education
- Reducing segregation and isolation
- Adopting effective school practices (examples are class size reduction, longer school days, and tutoring)
- Recognizing the importance of a high-quality teacher workforce
- Improving the measurement of poverty
“Because these policy initiatives do not directly address the educational challenges experienced by disadvantaged students, they have contributed little — and are not likely to contribute much in the future — to raising overall student achievement or to reducing achievement and educational attainment gaps between advantaged and disadvantaged students. Moreover, such policies have the potential to do serious harm. Addressing the educational challenges faced by children from disadvantaged families will require a broader and bolder approach to education policy than the recent efforts to reform schools."