Education Inequality in the United States
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More solutions ?

Hannah C's insight:

After having researched some steps to stop summer learning loss, I became more curious about specific effects of the "summer slide" and whether or not there are more viable solutions to this issue. I have learned that summer learning loss contributes greatly to the achievement gap, which broadens over time when some children surge ahead in academic development over the summer while others stay in the same place. I was particularly interested in smaller steps to stop this issue other than summer programs/summer school. This report recommends many different options to stop summer learning loss, including summer school, public library programs, books in the home, and voluntary summer reading programs. However, it also seems that there are complications with all of these proposed programs. I was particularly intrigued by the issue with public libraries: since public libraries in lower income neighborhoods tend to have lower funding and are usually the first to close with budget cuts, poorer children are at a huge disadvantage and do not have access to these public facilities that should be available to everyone. I would be interested in exploring whether or not there is anyone dealing with this issue, or if there are people/groups trying to advocate against budget cuts for public facilities such as libraries in lower-income neighborhoods. 

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How do we track summer learning loss?

How do we track summer learning loss? | Education Inequality in the United States | Scoop.it
Hannah C's insight:

       This graph compares the learning trajectory of middle class children against lower class children between kindergarten and the summer before fifth grade. The simply organized chart allows viewers to easily identify the learning gap between these two generalized groups of children, and also clearly displays the dips that the lower-income children's learning trajectories take in the summer. The time scale also helps point out at which point the lower-income students' reading achievement pace/slope diverges from that of the middle-income students' reading achievement pace (which is quite early on--during the first summer out of kindergarten). 

       However, I feel as though this graph is somewhat over-simplified. Yes, it's easy to read, but the issue to which it speaks is not easy take in, for it is a complicated social issue involving so many factors that couldn't possibly be incorporated into a graph this simple. I would be interested in seeing other socioeconomic classes included, or potentially even average income levels, because this might provide a more complicated (and therefore more realistic) image of the knowledge gap. Of course, a more complicated graph would not be as easy to read, but it would ultimately be more valuable and realistic to see what this study would look like with a broader sample of students. 

 

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Who is suffering these cuts?

Cuts in California - Interactive Feature - NYTimes.com
Hannah C's insight:

For the past few years, I have been hearing about the huge cuts in public school education. I'm aware that this is happening nationwide, but as a California resident, I have been keenly aware of the public school cuts closer to home. I chose this interactive project on the New York Times for the way in which it walks readers to choose amongst an array of budget cut categories and browse through the various budget cuts California government has been forced to make in recent years. I am curious about the kinds of cuts that have been made in higher education and community colleges, because I haven't thought much about the ways that schools besides k-12 institutions may suffer from these cuts. I also want to know why specific schools' budgets are cut and whether or not these cuts are related to the socio-economic status of those who attend these schools. 
     After browsing through the linked articles and reading the headers for each section, I've discovered that the impacts of these cuts are much greater than I'd expected. The community college cuts are particularly shocking, and officials predicted that because of these cuts, 250,000 students could collectively be turned away from the state's 110 community colleges. This fact stood out to me mostly because of the associations I have surrounding community colleges: I often think of these institutions as accessible to anyone, regardless of one's test scores or high school GPA, age, or amount of money one has saved for higher education. I also know that often people are unable to pay for a more expensive college may choose a community college because of its significantly lower cost. I worry that the people who are turned away from these community colleges are ones who have suffered the consequences of public school budget cuts in elementary, middle, and/or high schools, and have been perpetually disadvantaged because of these cuts. Simply reading about all of the students turned away from what I like to think of as an open and accessible source of higher education makes me think so much more about who is being turned away, what their backgrounds might be, and ultimately, those who seem to suffer the most consequences from these cuts. 

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Why talk to your baby?

Why talk to your baby? | Education Inequality in the United States | Scoop.it
Several campaigns are seeking to help the young children of poor and immigrant families by urging parents to spend more time talking to them.
Hannah C's insight:

     "Trying to Close a Knowledge Gap, Word by Word" sheds light on the importance of parents communicating verbally with their children. Motoko Rich writes that children "at risk" of being academically and intellectually behind in their lives are those who come from low-income families, and are often immigrants, or have parents who immigrated before they were born. To combat this knowledge gap, campaigns such as Providence Talks are working with families develop strong communication habits with their children. Commenters are widely in support of this theory, though most stress the fact that all parents should talk to their babies, regardless of economic status, language, nationality, etc. A few commenters have taken offense to this article-- one man feels as though this article and strain of research accuses all poor people of being unintelligent. While the offense that people have taken to this is of course valid, I think their interpretations may be a bit misguided: this article is arguing that "poor people are stupid," but instead sheds light on the various disadvantages and obstacles that lower-income and immigrant families often face in exposing their children to language. Much of it has to do with time, for parents who must work every day can not spend as much time with their children. Other issues include language-- families who do not speak much or any English at home may put their children at a disadvantage later in life, and, as one commenter notes, can not prepare their children as well as English-speaking families to "be Americans." While American identity may certainly be defined in many ways, a crucial part of functioning and being successful in the United States is through the ability to communicate. 

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Combating the "Summer Slide"

When schools close for the summer, many students struggle to access educational opportunities. Low-income students lose more than two months of reading achie...
Hannah C's insight:

This is a great example of a program that is working to diminish the amount of lost learning time during the summer that statistically affects low income children. The capital district YMCA is now offering summer opportunities for low income students in order to prepare students for the coming school year and ensure that they do not fall behind other students during the summer months. It is exciting to see a program that incorporates both traditionally academic activities such as grammar and vocabulary lessons and less traditional (and more summer camp-y) activities such as art and field trips into one program withe an underlining theme of engagement and enrichment. 

 

It is upsetting to see that low income students can lose more than two months of reading achievement over the summer, which is a fact that I've encountered numerous times in my research. However, this also makes me think that programs like the YMCA's actually can make a difference. 

 

One question I have is about the funding for this and similar programs-- how much funding is provided and by who? It seems like these programs are extremely helpful and committed to combating the learning gap, but how common is it and where are these organizations finding their resources?

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Cuts Cause "Summer Slide"

Summer school programs were the latest casualty of California’s widening budget gap, leaving many parents at loose ends.
Hannah C's insight:

After taking a look at the "Summer Slide" info graphic, I've thought a lot about how lack of summer opportunities can broaden the knowledge gap. While this NYT article is from 2009, my guess would be that the summer schools cuts that were enacted a few years ago are still in place today. Summer activities are extremely important for children who are still in school, both because they inevitably stimulate academic and social muscles, and (maybe more importantly) because they keep children busy and away from the poor decisions that boredom often yields, particularly when parents are away at work all day. Knowing that there have been countless studies done that speak to the importance of summer activities, I am curious about whether or not the LA officials who cancelled summer schools offered any alternative opportunities, or if there are any other organizations that are reaching out to the children who are most in need of some sort of organized activity during the summer. 
     One line in this article stood out to me as particularly powerful: "close to two-thirds of the achievement gap can be traced directly to access in summer learning opportunities." Learning this angers me, and definitely gives me a better understanding of just how important summer activities are, and how this short-term budget solution will later affect the lives of individual students. 

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The "Summer Slide"

Hannah C's insight:

Golden ideas:
     "Summer learning loss accounts for about two-thirds of the ninth grade achievement gap in reading." 
     
     "Longitudinal studies indicate that the effects of summer learning programs endure for at least two years after participation." 

      "The achievement gap between children from high- and low-income families is roughly 30 to 40 percent larger among children born in 2001 than among those born twenty-five years earlier." 

 This infographic, created by the National Summer Learning Association, speaks to the precious time over the summer that lower-income children are unable to take advantage of as learning opportunities. While children whose parents have "the means [to] invest more time and money than ever before in their children" face a myriad of fun and stimulating summer activities, lower-income children "lack options" in the summer, and as a result are less-prepared than many of their peers may be for the following school year. It is upsetting to me that children may miss out on so much in a short 3-month period of time, while others are able to expand their minds daily. One "thorn" that stood out to me is the fact that "the achievement gap between children from high and low-income families is roughly 30 to 40 percent larger among children born in 2001 than among those born twenty-five years earlier" – this gap is broadening over time, not narrowing. Children from lower-income families today face an even more daunting gap than those born not long before them. Another statistic that spoke to me was the fact that "for every one line of print read [over the summer] by low-income children, middle-income children read three." While a difference of two lines perhaps does not seem like much, the fact that middle-income children are reading three times as much as disadvantaged youth for three months shocks me, and certainly seems like it affects those lower-income children during the early months of the school year when they are expected to dive back into an academic schedule packed with reading assignments. 

 
What kind of programs has the National Summer Learning Association organized? 

Is the achievement gap broadened over the summer because "better off children build[ing] their skills steadily over the summer months" are doing academic work, or because their parents are sending them to camps where they build social skills and participate in recreational activities?


Building reading skills seems to be of utmost importance according to this poster, but how might socializing with other children or building athletic skills help narrow this gap as well? 

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