When it comes to education, income matters. That’s nothing new, but new research shows it matters now more than ever. The achievement gap between rich and poor children is widening, reports the New York Times:
“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.
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.
The school reform movement doesn’t like to talk about poverty. “Poverty is not an excuse for poor performance,” the reformers say.
Yet research shows it matters. So what we do? Reducing poverty would obviously help. So would economically integrating schools, according to a study of Montgomery County, Maryland schools.
But few people want to talk about poverty and integration, preferring instead to focus on closing schools, charter schools, alternative schools and teacher evaluations.
Governor Cuomo thinks school integration is a lost cause, according to the Syracuse Post-Standard. The newspaper asked him about the concentration of poverty and the possibility of creating metro schools:
In one sense, Cuomo agreed.
“There’s no doubt that structurally, fundamentally, that’s the problem, and it’s vicious,” Cuomo said. “Because as you take the families (who) leave who can leave …. you’re taking the intact families, the higher-income families, you’re leaving behind the poorer family and you’re actually increasing the burden on the (city) school system.”
Even so, the governor said, realigned school districts won’t happen.
“I don’t think you’re going to change the minds politically,” Cuomo said. “What you’d have to do is go to the surrounding suburbs and say, ‘We want to have a unified school district and we want you to have your kids go to school with the city kids.’ They’re going to say: ‘No, that’s why I left, that’s why I moved here, that’s why I pay my higher taxes so I don’t have to do that.’”
The Post-Standard says Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke in Syracuse in 1965 and warned of the consequences of the North’s “ghetto schools.” But Cuomo says any suggestion poor, urban school district cannot achieve is a “sad and damning commentary.”
It’s a sad commentary, but one that rings true.