Closing the Achievement Gap

A study in Baltimore has given us new insight and a strategy for closing the achievement gap among low-income students, which mainly involve black and brown students in poor and underserved neighborhoods. In “Lasting Consequences of the Summer Learning Gap,” Johns Hopkins University sociologists Karl Alexander, Doris Entwisle, and Linda Steffel Olson find the difference in children’s future academic success can be explained, in part, by their experiences during their summer vacations.

The study suggests that there is a summer learning gap between lower- and higher-income children and it starts during elementary school years. Higher-income children’s home environments are resource rich. They are more likely to have access to magazines, books, and have their parents read to them. Consequently, this gap accumulates over the years and results in unequal placements in college preparatory tracks once the children get to high school. The gap also increases the chances that children from low socio-economic families will drop out of high school and decreases their chances of attending a four-year college.

According to the authors, these findings are significant because once disadvantaged children get to high school, their achievement test scores are far below average, compared to higher-income children. Achievement test scores play an important role in academic placement. Because of lower scores, these children are then associated with higher risks of dropping out of high school, and not continuing on to college.

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