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The Widening Income Achievement Gap

Abstract

"Has the academic achievement gap between high-income and low-income students changed over the last few decades? If so, why? And what can schools do about it?

Researcher Sean F. Reardon conducted a comprehensive analysis of research to answer these questions and came up with some striking findings. In this article, he shows that income-related achievement gaps have grown significantly over the last three decades, even as black-white achievement gaps have closed. These gaps are already large when children enter kindergarten; in fact, they do not grow substantially during the school years. Gaps between low-income and higher-income students in other measures of education success (such as college completion rates and civic engagement) have also been growing.

Reardon describes a constellation of socioeconomic trends that have led to the widening gap, and discusses the role that schools can play in helping to close the gap. He recommends three strategies: devoting more resources to the early grades; providing extended time in school (provided that it's used effectively); and doing more to reduce socioeconomic segregation in school assignment and thus provide more equal access to high-quality teachers, stimulating curriculum and instruction, and adequate school resources."

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