As the article states, understanding the link between race, ethnicity and educational achievement is more important than ever before because our population is more diverse than ever before. However, our schools are more segregated and still not even close to equitable.
Kao summarizes data to explain the achievement gap, and comes to the conclusion that there are really two different theories. One is about how certain ethnic groups promote or discourage educational achievement and the other is that the structural position of ethnic groups affects the children’s environment. This would include the skills they brought with them, the time of their arrival, and their parents socioeconomic status.
Poor children and low income children are over-represented in low ability classes in elementary school. These low ability classes determine their placement later on. Low income, urban schools do not offer the same wealth of course options than schools with more money. They do not have the same resources or teachers, and really nothing is being done to prevent this inequity.
According to Kao, parental education and family income is probably the best predictor of eventual academic outcomes among youth. These differences are substantial across
race, ethnic, and immigrant groups, and help to explain a substantial proportion
(although not all) of the variation in educational outcomes of youth (Kao). In fact, another noted educational theorist named Jonathan Kozol goes so far as to say “In 48 percent of high schools in the nation’s 100 largest districts, which are those in which the highest concentrations of black and Hispanic students tend to be enrolled, less than half the entering ninth-graders graduate in four years” (Kozol). The inequity of the education that these kids receive is clearly seen.
What it comes down to is the fact that people with money live in wealthier districts that have access to more resources in every way, partly because of schools being funded by property taxes. Their kids may also receive extra tutoring or even pre-K programs that put their children ahead. Their children receive a much higher quality education, which in turn, solidifies or enhances their own societal position.
While not all minority students are poor, the fact remains that there are both income gaps and wealth gaps among races in this country. The wealth gap is a cumulative result of laws protecting white people and property, such as the Homestead Act or the FDA Housing loans. More must be done in this country to level the playing field, so to speak. Without quality education, there really is no good way to improve one’s status.
Kao, G. and Thompson, J. (2003). Racial and Ethnic Stratification in Educational Achievement and Attainment. Annual Review of Sociology. Retrieved Nov. 7, 2008 at http://gracekao.231.googlepages.com/kao.thompson.ars.2004.pdf
Kozol, J. (2005). Still Separate, Still Unequal: America’s Educational Apartheid. Harper’s Magazine. Retrieved Nov. 8, 2008 at http://www.mindfully.org/Reform/2005/American-Apartheid-Education1sep05.htm