Rich and Poor Education Gap Is Growing: Stanford

Teacher looked at the impact of money on education over the past 50 years.

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    LONDON - MAY 21 : A classroom at Edenham High School lies empty after lunchtime May 21, 2003 in Croydon, England. The school had to send home about 700 of it's pupils early because of funding problems, which meant the school could not afford to employ temporary teaching staff while teachers were off sick. (Photo by Ian Waldie/Getty Images)

    The gap between rich and poor students is widening, according to a Stanford professor.

    Despite government efforts to level the playing field in public education, a new study by Stanford associate professor of education Sean Reardon finds that the disparity between well off and financially struggling students has steadily grown over the past 50 years.

    "We had expected the relationship between family income and children's test scores to be pretty stable over time," Reardon said. "It's a well-known fact that the two are related. But the fact that the gap has grown substantially, especially in the last 25 years, was quite surprising, striking and troubling."

    The study examined standardized test scores from 12 data sets beginning in 1960 and ending in 2007.

    It also compared children from families in the 90th percentile income bracket to the children from families in the 10th percentile, which roughly translated to earning about $160,000 on the high end and $17,500 on the low end.

    The results showed that the gap has grown by about 40 percent and the it is almost twice as large as the black-white achievement gap.

    "It means that it's harder and harder to achieve the American dream that says it doesn't matter where you start, as long as you work hard you can rise above," Reardon said.

    The study did not point to one factor that caused the change. Reardon said one change is that several higher earning families are investing more in their children's education.

    "If you have money, generally your neighbors have money, which means you probably have access to better child care and preschools, and better elementary schools, parks and libraries," he said.

    To close the gap, Reardon suggests more early childhood intervention. The full study can be read in the book "Rising Inequality, Schools, and Children's Life Chances."

    More information can be found on Stanford's website.