The fractious debate over how much schools can counteract poverty's impact on children is far from settled, but a recently published collection of research strongly suggests that until policymakers and educators confront deepening economic and social disparities, poor children will increasingly miss out on finding a path to upward social mobility.
The achievement gap between poor children and rich children has
grown significantly over the past three decades and is now nearly twice
as large as the black-white gap, according to Sean F. Reardon, a
Stanford University sociologist. He examined data on family income and student scores on standardized tests in reading and math spanning 1960 to 2007.
As the income gap has grown, so too has the disparity in how much
money and time affluent parents invest in the development of their young
children compared with such efforts by low-income parents. For example,
between birth and age 6, children from high-income families now spend
an average of 1,300 more hours in "novel" places outside their homes,
schools, and day-care centers than children from poor families, a trend
documented by Meredith Phillips, an associate professor of public policy
and sociology at the University of California, Los Angeles.