Educating the Disadvantaged
Rising social and economic inequality has become a national preoccupation. The growth of inequality is held at least partly responsible for everything from the recent increase in racial tension to anti-immigrant sentiment to the election of President Donald Trump. Most Americans also view inequality as a problem in itself, perhaps most importantly as a damper on mobility. A New York Times/CBS News poll from 2015 reported that only 35% of Americans believed that "anyone can get ahead." A Gallup poll from the same year found that 63% of Americans thought income should be more evenly distributed.
But inequality is about more than just income. Lower- and upper-class communities have separated geographically and diverged in family structure, habits, outlook, and criminality. One source and effect of these trends is disparities in educational attainment. Children growing up in poor families and neighborhoods, including many black and Hispanic children, complete less schooling and acquire fewer academic skills than those from more affluent backgrounds, which severely limits their potential for social mobility.
The origins of existing achievement gaps, and potential strategies for closing them, have been the subject of research and study for decades, generating a complex theoretical and empirical literature. Numerous innovations and programs, involving large expenditures of public and private funds, have been devoted to increasing and equalizing achievement. Despite sustained efforts on multiple fronts, socioeconomic gaps in educational indicators have barely budged overall, resisting repeated waves of school reform and a multitude of initiatives designed to improve prospects for low-income students.
Two approaches in particular have received wide popular attention and strong professional advocacy for addressing inequalities in K-12 education. Both are motivated by a genuine desire to make headway against racial and economic inequalities in Educating the Disadvantaged | National Affairs: