A New Worry for Educators: The Income Divide

Friday, February 10, 2012 - 08:05 AM

The focus of educators in recent years has been on closing racial and ethnic gaps -- and the efforts appear to have had some success. But now comes news that the achievement gap between rich and poor is widening, The New York Times reports on Friday.

A chart that accompanies the article by Sabrina Tavernese portrays the grim story -- one that until recently received little attention.

Now, in analyses of long-term data published in recent months, researchers are finding that while the achievement gap between white and black students has narrowed significantly over the past few decades, the gap between rich and poor students has grown substantially during the same period.

“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.

In another study, by researchers from the University of Michigan, the imbalance between rich and poor children in college completion — the single most important predictor of success in the work force — has grown by about 50 percent since the late 1980s.

The report says the recession may have widened the gap. And in another sign of how much the Occupy Wall Street movement has changed the national conversation, the growing focus on the nation's income divide may have helped bring more attention to this matter.

Charles Murray, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute said the problem seems to go beyond income to what appears to be a permanent social divide. And, The Times reports:

There are no easy answers, in part because the problem is so complex, said Douglas J. Besharov, a fellow at the Atlantic Council. Blaming the problem on the richest of the rich ignores an equally important driver, he said: two-earner household wealth, which has lifted the upper middle class ever further from less educated Americans, who tend to be single parents.

The problem is a puzzle, he said. “No one has the slightest idea what will work. The cupboard is bare.”

This Sunday is the deadline for all houses of worship to stop holding religious services in the city's public schools, The Daily News reminds this Friday morning.

The Rev. John Storck, a pastor at Grace Fellowship Church, has held Sunday worship services at Public School 150 in Sunnyside, Queens, since 2006. According to The News, "Storck said he could lose more than half his flock if he’s force to move into a different neighborhood because most of them walk to prayer services."

Pastors throughout the city have similar worries, but a last-minute effort by the State Senate to create a law that would sidestep the city Department of Education's edict -- and the court action that led to it -- will likely fall short because the Democratic-majority State Assembly would also have to pass the legislation, and Speaker Sheldon Silver of Manhattan has indicated that's not going to happen.

“It would open up the schools to anybody," Mr. Silver said, calling the legislation "seriously flawed." "It might include the Ku Klux Klan.”

Gotham Schools, like SchoolBook, provided live updates through the night of Thursday's shorter-than-expected Panel for Educational Policy vote on schools closings. If you haven't read the posts already, see how the night evolved, ending with the approval of all 18 proposed closings and 5 truncations.

And coming up around the city on Friday:

At noon, the schools Chancellor Dennis M. Walcott will join Speaker Christine C. Quinn at an event to kick off Respect for All Week at Baruch College Campus High School, 55 East 25th Street, Manhattan.


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