rich kids

Another sobering piece of news that probably won’t come as a great surprise: academically, children from richer families far out-perform those who come from less well-off families. Those who come from wealthier families score higher on standardized tests, graduate at higher rates, and participate more in school and leadership activities.

Sean Reardon at the New York Times studied students’ standardized test scores across the country:

One way to see this is to look at the scores of rich and poor students on standardized math and reading tests over the last 50 years. When I did this using information from a dozen large national studies conducted between 1960 and 2010, I found that the rich-poor gap in test scores is about 40 percent larger now than it was 30 years ago.

So not only is there a gap, the gap has also gotten substantially larger over the past three decades. In addition:

In the 1980s, on an 800-point SAT-type test scale, the average difference in test scores between two [children, one from a family with an income of $165,000 and one from a family with an income of $15,000] would have been about 90 points; today it is 125 points. This is almost twice as large as the 70-point test score gap between white and black children. Family income is now a better predictor of children’s success in school than race.

Graduation rates have historically been tied to income levels: the poorer the families, the more like the children from that family will drop out of high school, which obviously affects low-income children from attending college.

Reardon argues that the gap in academic achievement is not due to racial gaps in achievement, or is it because schools are failing to educate and prepare America’s students for higher education. What it comes down to is that children from richer families enter school “much better prepared to succeed in school than middle-class students” and that this difference “persists throughout elementary and high school.”

In the past, we wrote about how the income for the poor grew only $59 over 4 decades, and how the rich have gotten richer more quickly as well. Rich, well-educated families have the resources to help prepare their children academically and cognitively, and children from these families start their preparation early, before they ever even enter school.

Despite the fact that a college education isn’t worth as much as it used to be, educational success is still highly valued in America, and children from wealthy families are excelling because they were raised by families who can afford to prepare them for higher education.

The solution to this problem, as proposed by Reardon, includes finding ways to help parents with lower incomes be better teachers.

This might include strategies to support working families so that they can read to their children more often… It might also mean greater business and government support for maternity and paternity leave and daycare so that the middle class and the poor can get some of the educational benefits that the early academic intervention of the rich provides their children.

The solution is to find ways to educate lower-income parents, and not to propose a bill that cuts welfare benefits when kids fail at school.

Do you have any suggestions that might help lower income families? Leave a comment below!

(Image of school kids via Shutterstock)

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