My students commonly insist that family support and family values are major determinants of success in school. I can’t really argue with that. We might hope that all kids go home to families who encourage them to learn and to dream big.
Yet I ask them what would happen if, somehow, we did attain this. If all parents checked homework every day and left college brochures on their children’s pillows, would children then experience equal outcomes in school? A new report released by ETS, Parsing the Achievement GapII (pdf attached below) documents that relative to middle-class children and white children, low-income and minority children:
- are less likely to be taught by certified teachers
- are more likely to attend schools with high teacher absenteeism and teacher turn-over
- learn in bigger classes
- report issues of fear and safety in school
- be taught by inexperienced teachers
Data is also reported on low birth rates, access to the internet, exposure to mercury and lead, and hunger. Low-income and minority kids are at the losing end on all counts.
If learning is highly correlated with values, it would seem that we might do well to value these children enough to invest in equitable childhoods. Perhaps we could divert at least some of the energy that we collectively invest in fretting over undone homework worksheets to these bigger questions of basic health and basic educational quality.
Next year, my students will be reading his report.