Nova workboard

a blog from young economists at Nova SBE

Why is the Educational Gap getting bigger?

In the New York Times opinion page, we can find a very controversial post entitled “No Rich Child Left Behind”. It refers to the great gap between lower class students and middle class ones, and an even more surprising gap between these and upper class students. This gap refers not only to grades and higher graduation rates, but also to other extracurricular activities, and more importantly to the age when children become students: rich kids go to school earlier.

The point that the author was trying to make is not that this happens now, but yes that it has been a growing tendency, showing that the Gap between lower and higher classes educational success, (scores on standardized tests), has been increasing, and is now 40% bigger when compared to the Gap 30 years ago. These great disparities have been rising as the upper class students have been surpassing surprisingly fast middle class ones, and their difference is now close to the difference between middle and lower class students.

After demystifying some prejudices regarding racial and the existence of negligence of poorer students, the author, Sean F. Reardon, advocate “There is some evidence that achievement gaps between high- and low-income students actually narrow during the nine-month school year, but they widen again in the summer months.” This, in his opinion, suggests that the determining factor for the evolution of success is not only who is richer but yes HOW the high-income families are in fact spending the money.

Given the increasing perception of school importance, rich families are investing not only in schools, but also in other extracurricular activities that they believe will help develop their children cognitive and educational capacities. Besides all of this, also the timing of these activities and investments seems to be crucial. Studies have showed that at 3 years old already family income has an impact on cognitive capabilities – Is kinder garden a crucial element for development and convergence?

This, if true, may be a very convincing argument to show that policy focused on bringing this gap down is actually been directed in the wrong way. In a certain way, to improve education, government invest more, but in a blind sort of way – more expenditure does not mean better results, unless it is directed in the right way. Is investing in preschools and childcare a more important aspect than increasing expenditure in high schools? Well, if this hold true, yes!

Colloquially, young kids can be called, sponges: they absorb everything around them being fast learners. Everyone who has coexisted with a 3 year old know that they are also eager learners, always asking why things are the way they are – maybe policy should tackle this characteristics so as to decrease this gap. The brain change much quicker at the age of 3 than at 10, and develop key characteristics that will follow people through all their lives.


Class notes

Maria Martins #540

Author: studentnovasbe

Master student in Nova Sbe

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