While browsing the Web, I stumbled upon the site of Stanford cepa, Center for Education Policy Analysis, and an article titled “The widening academic achievement gap between the rich and the poor.” The information they present is unsettling: “The achievement gap between children from high- and low-income families is roughly 30 to 40 percent larger among children born in 2001 than among those born twenty-five years earlier. The gap appears to have grown at least partly because of an increase in the association between family income and children’s academic achievement.”
Evidently socioeconomic level plays an important role is a child’s learning. What, then, is the educational establishment’s response to this? According to the National Education Association, “There’s no greater gap between the region’s affluent and less-advantaged families than quality of education.” One possible reason for this is offered by Claudia Goldin and Lawrence F.Katz of Harvard University in their book, The Race Between Education and Technology, where they contend over 60 percent of inequality relates to the difference in earnings for college verses high school graduates. And an Education Trust-West study found “almost all of California’s largest school districts have significant funding gaps between their high-poverty and low-poverty schools”, with “the low-income students more likely to have less-experienced, cheaper teachers than high-income students.” It seems clear the key to educational excellence is the amount of money which can be injected into the system. High income students do well while impoverished ones must fail.
Although the group statistics are probably accurate, something doesn’t quite ring true. Can you explain why over ten years many of my chemistry students, whose annual family incomes averaged between $25,000 and $35,000, managed to maintain nearly straight A averages through both high school and two years at the local community college where I taught? I’ll offer an opinion: It’s my belief a student who is both bright and eager to learn will do so, irrespective of the attractiveness of the classroom or the competence of the teacher. More to the point, the money devoted to education is rarely allocated in such a manner as to enhance instruction to the student. Neither the salary an instructor or administrator receives nor the plushness of the infrastructure will contribute in any way to the learning a student receives. In short, I disagree with the conventional palliative that academic excellence results from the spending of money.