Finally, a Disturbing Trend in Education Shows Signs of Reversal

Joy Resmovits, Los Angeles Times, August 30, 2016

For decades, wealthy children have far outperformed poor ones in school, creating a chasm that researchers and advocates say only exacerbates society’s inequalities.

Attempts to improve school readiness and thus close the gap have occupied experts and politicians for years. In 1998, California passed a cigarette tax to fund early childhood education. Hillary Clinton is promising in her presidential campaign universal preschool for 4-year-olds.

When Stanford University’s Sean Reardon, a professor of poverty and inequality in education, decided to check the school readiness gap and how it has changed since the late 1990s, he and his team expected to find that it had widened. After all, income inequality had grown and there had been a recession.

The results surprised them. From 1998 to 2010, the gap had narrowed–with both poor and wealthy children better prepared for kindergarten and poor students improving their readiness at a faster rate. The gap had shrunk the equivalent, in terms of childhood development, of about one month, and is now at roughly eight months of kindergarten time.

“It’s not a huge change, but it’s more striking because it’s in the opposite direction than we’d seen,” Reardon said. “It’s an important [piece of] evidence that this trend might be reversing.” Racial achievement gaps–between white and black children, as well as between white and Latino children–also have decreased, he said.

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