The biggest divide between poor and wealthy students is one of community connection, argues Harvard researcher Robert Putnam in a new book.
“But Mr. Putnam also finds that achievement gaps between wealthy and poor students of the same race are now larger than gaps between races of the same economic group.”
Poverty is not an excuse for low achievement, but a reason why we need to invest more in leveling the playing field between middle and low-income students.
- Poor students’ participation in extracurricular activities fell from nearly 80 percent in the early 1980s to about 65 percent in the mid-2000s. Wealthy students’ participation stayed steady at more than 85 percent during the same period.
- It’s hard to make schools the centers of their communities if the communities aren’t there.
- a deeper and more fundamental gap between wealthy and poor students: the connection gap
- 16 states had funding systems that provided less money per pupil to high-poverty school districts, while only 17 provided more per-pupil spending for districts with greater poverty.
- Schools with 75 percent poverty or more offered one-third the number of Advanced Placement courses in 2009-10 than did wealthier schools—four each year on average compared to nearly a dozen each year at schools with 25 percent poverty or less.
- high-poverty schools have more than twice as many disciplinary problems as low-poverty schools.
The book offers a few suggestions on ways educators can help rebuild poor students’ social and educational supports, including:
- Tailor school-based parent-involvement programs to specific skills and supports. For example, Mr. Putnam suggests that rather than simply asking parents to “read to your child every day,” schools can provide coaching on specific skills, like questioning-and-response practices.
- Build more community-school partnerships to provide health, social services, and enrichment activities for students in schools.
- Ensure that students in poverty have access to both advanced courses and strong career training, even in high-poverty schools.