In 1979, a study was done called “Small Futures: Children, Inequality and the Limits of Liberal Reform.” The study compared two second grade students, who both did well in school, paid attention in class and had identical I.Q's. In fact, the only main difference between the two boys was what their father’s did for work. Bobby was the son of a lawyer and Jimmy was the son of a seldom employed custodial assistant. The study found that Bobby was 27 times more likely than Jimmy to get a job that would put him in a position to be making an income in the top 10th of all incomes in the country, by the age of 40.
Unfortunately, the gap has grown even larger since 1979. Schools in lower class areas are not being properly funded, children are not getting what they need in and out of school, and these children are suffering because of it. While resources are available, not all families know about them. According to the National Governor's Association, school reform has been a top priority since the mid-1980's. While some groups have seen significant changes, class still remains an issue.
As we look at middle school students, the performance gaps get even bigger, when looking at socioeconomic class. According to the Institute of Education, children from a lower socioeconomic class were scoring 29-30 points lower than students in a higher socioeconomic class. In 2009, the students who were included in the free/reduced lunch program had an average score that was 29 points lower than students not in the program. From fourth to eighth grade children dropped 6 points on average.
Students in the lower class group also have less of a chance of going on to college. The College Board states only fifty-four percent of high school graduates in this group continue on to college. Eighty-two percent of families with incomes above $86,000 enroll in college.
No Child Left Behind is one act that was put into place to help close the achievement gap for students from different economic backgrounds, as well as students with disabilities, students with little English proficiency and students from all ethnic backgrounds. Many schools are still having trouble meeting these benchmarks. The reason may be because the act does not give schools further resources to help these children. It also does not look at the whole child and what might actually help them to succeed.
A great program that I was lucky enough to visit, while doing my research, is the Lynn Economic Opportunity (LEO). They run the Head Start programs in Lynn but they also provide a full support system for low-income families. Their goal is to help these families become not only self-sustaining, but also successful. In addition to early education and school age programs, LEO offers rental and fuel assistance, nutritional assistance and education, parent education and career development. The people in the program are very committed to what they do. The program gives children a strong support system at a young age. The problem is that once children reach the elementary grades and higher, there is less attention paid to all these other things going on with a low-income student. These programs and services need to continue through a child's education. The public school system needs to have programs to help the families in their communities as well.
Regrettably, the Obama Administration has proposed the elimination of the Community Services Block Grant, which is the main funding for LEO, other Head Start programs and most services to fight poverty. The elimination of this grant could set back the efforts that have been made to help low income children succeed.
The interview that was conducted with Danny shows us why we need education reform.