School Quality and the Achievement Gap

Debra Viadero:

Two new studies shed light on how the achievement gaps between groups of students grow as they move from elementary to middle school.
The studies—one by researchers Eric A. Hanushek and Steven G. Rivkin and the other by the Northwest Evaluation Association—both found that black students start out school trailing behind their white counterparts, learn less over the course of the school year, and fall further behind as they progress through school.
But the studies diverge as they try to pinpoint potential causes for those learning gaps.
Mr. Hanushek and Mr. Rivkin, both university-based economists, suggest that the growth in the size of the learning gaps that occur as children move from kindergarten through 8th grade can be explained by certain differences in the schools that black and white children attend.


One thought on “School Quality and the Achievement Gap”

  1. There may well be differences in the educational resources available in some schools serving low SES students (of all races), but there is also a large and growing body of evidence from studies that go back to the mid-90’s and continue to show a difference in the early language development opportunities in low SES families that may be even more important.
    Studies such as the Hart & Risley study published in the late 90’s were able to track language interactions between parents or caregivers and children between 0 and 2 years of age and their subsequent lack of early reading proficiencies at ages 4 and up that may help explain the gaps that start early and continue throughout the academic life of many children. A full 30 million word difference in spoken language experience between low SES and “Professional” families by age 4 translates into learning deficits that last throughout their K-12 learning period. Once behind, programs such as Reading Recovery, Read 180 and other interventions can only impact the experiential differences that were missed to a small degree. The language development gaps in many of these children stand separately as reasons why they stay below proficiency in many, many cases. There are over 200 published studies that support early intervention targeting cognitive LANGUAGE development that is necessary before READING development can be mapped by the human brain effectively.
    It has never been easy to change how we educate our children, and change itself is difficult in any field–but perhaps it is time to look outside of our immediate area to review research that supports new and powerful new interventions that have been shown to be more effective than what we are doing…..

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