This week I received the latest issue of Phi Delta Kappan, if you are not a member you truly are missing out on an amazing organization and research. I always read each issue but this months is already worn out from page turning, highlighting and being rolled to pause and think. The title of the issue is: Does income equality threaten American education? Each article brings more clarity to the subject area but also made to think about what solutions there are to this galaxy sized problem.
Let’s begin with a quick summary of the first article: Growing income inequality threatens American education. Authored by Greg J Duncan and Richard J. Murnane who also authored Restoring Opportunity: The Crisis of Inequality and the Challenge for American Education.
First, the authors are stating the problem and how the problem can be seen in data such as looking at the income levels ranging from 1970 to 2010, the past forty years and then comparing that to the achievement of high-income students compared to low-income students. The case is definitely made and supported that the average income (based on 2012 dollars) of the lowest 20th percent and the average income of the highest 95th percent has become increasing divergent and has created a growing gap.
How does that impact families? The amount of money spent on enrichment activities for their children is greatly divided. These enrichment opportunities provide background knowledge for reading instruction in elementary and science and social studies in middle school. High-income parents also spend more time in literacy activities than do low-income parents.
How does that impact schools? This wide gap in income has created an income-based segregation of neighborhoods and schools. This effects schools through student behavior, mental health, political clout of the wealthy, transient students, and poor teacher quality, immigrant language acquisition. This outcome jeopardizes the positive effects of the benefits of mixed income schools.
What HAS helped? Federal policies such as the Child Tax Credit and the Earned Income Tax Credit have resulted in “improved educational outcomes for young children and health in adulthood.” The second life preserver is the “quality and consistency of the instruction and experiences offered to students.”
Next month these same authors are going to “Describe ideas based on proven policy approaches that will enable the country to make progress on the enormous task of restoring the educational opportunities that children from low-income families need if they are to lead productive and fulfilling lives.”