Sunday, August 28, 2016

Surprise! Amid Rising Inequality, One School Gap Is Narrowing : NPR Ed : NPR

Surprise! Amid Rising Inequality, One School Gap Is Narrowing : NPR Ed : NPR:

Surprise! Amid Rising Inequality, One School Gap Is Narrowing

Illustration of the achievement gap shown through the analogy of growing gardens.

Recent studies and government reports continue to highlight what many American's know by their wallets: Rising income differences, debt and stagnant real wages are among the biggest problems besetting the nation.
That economic inequality is reflected in America's schools, right? Absolutely.
But a study just out shows that the gap in school readiness between rich and poor children entering kindergarten closed significantly — by 10 to 16 percent —from 1998 to 2010. Some ethnic/racial achievement gaps declined as well.
I spoke with the study's lead author, Sean Reardon, a professor of poverty and inequality in education at Stanford University.
Your study's results are kind of surprising given the widening income inequality over the same period, no?
Yeah, actually really quite surprising. Certainly it wasn't the finding we expected when we started the study. We thought because income and equality continued to grow and because achievement gaps had been growing for several decades, we thought we would just see that they had continued to grow but the data say otherwise.
Why do you think the gap has narrowed? More parents more engaged, doing more at the pre-K level across all incomes? Or are there other factors?
I think the two most likely explanations are improvements in the quality of preschool available to low-income families and more engagement of families across the income distribution, but particularly low-income families, in sort of cognitively enriching activities with their kids.
Give us some examples. Reading consistently to your child, taking them to museums, that kind of thing?
Yeah. We looked at the data to sort of see what parents say they have been doing with their kids over the last year. In the 2010 cohort, parents say they're doing more reading to their kids, they have more books at home. They're taking them to zoos, libraries, museums, places like that more. Their kids are doing more, playing more with computer games that are designed to teach them literacy and early numeracy skills, shapes, colors, sounds, letters, stuff like that. All of those things together we know are likely to help kids get ready for kindergarten.
What's interesting is the increase in those kinds of activities is more pronounced among low income families over this 12-year period than it is among high income families.
That is interesting. How was school readiness defined in the study?
These are studies where, in 1998 and 2010, the National Center for Education Statistics sent trained early childhood assessors out to 1,000 kindergartens around the country. In each kindergarten they sat down one-on-one with about 15 to 25 kindergarten students. And they asked them a structured set of questions to see if they could recognize letters, sound out words, count, recognize shapes, recognize colors and a variety of things like that. These were all sophisticated, kind of one-on-one Surprise! Amid Rising Inequality, One School Gap Is Narrowing : NPR Ed : NPR:

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