A new study led by William Schmidt, University Distinguished Professor of statistics and education at Michigan State University, finds that the nation’s schools tend to widen inequality by shortchanging low-income students with low quality mathematics education. This, in turn, makes these students less prepared for college entrance examinations, college-level curriculum, and to compete in the job market.
Professor Schmidt says that “the belief that schools are the great equalizer, helping students overcome the inequalities of poverty is a myth.”
The researchers found not only that low-income students are more likely to be exposed to weaker math content in schools, but also that a substantial share of the difference in math performance between rich and poor students is related to this inequality. In the United States, the school inequality gap was 37 percent, meaning that more than a third of the disadvantage in math performance for poor students was due to inequalities in mathematics education.
“Because of school differences in content exposure for low- and high-income students in this country, the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer,” said Dr. Schmidt.
While the study focuses on income level and not race, it is clear that this study has major implications for racial inequality. This is true because Blacks in the United States are three times as likely as Whites to be poor and the median Black family income is less than 60 percent of the median White family income.
The article, “The Role of Schooling in Perpetuating Educational Inequality: An International Perspective,” was published on the website of the journal Educational Researcher. It may be accessed here.