Disparity Widens as Students Progress in School

Association of Educators
April 14, 2014 — 1,134 views  

Research conducted by The Education Trust, a Washington D.C advocacy non-profit, has revealed that students who have begun high school as achievers exhibit a marked disparity in subsequent results. Students hailing from disadvantaged backgrounds are seen to pass lesser number of Advanced Placement examinations and graduate with much lower grades when compared to their counterparts.

Falling out of the Lead

The report, titled “Falling out of the Lead” concentrated on the best students based on assessments done when they were sophomores and followed the students' academic progress to graduation. The analysis points to startling gaps in education. Only 10 percent of students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds did well educationally, compared to almost 50 percent of economically well off students.

The report stated that the gaps correlate with achievement differences which the student brings to kindergarten. This is added to by differential preparation in the elementary and middle schools which contributes almost nothing to close the initial gap.

Burden of Background

When researchers tracked high achievers in high schools from a number of backgrounds, they made the discovery of gaps being widened as the students progressed, with their backgrounds playing a major role.

High achieving students coming from disadvantaged backgrounds earned an average GPA of 2.90 to 2.97. In contrast, the general high achieving students of advantaged backgrounds got 3.24 GPA. An analysis of the students’ grades from a socioeconomic perspective was conducted; among the best performers it reveals a 0.21 gap in GPA among students hailing from upper and lower-income families.

Other studies, like the research done by the University of Chicago brings forward the notion that the perception of teachers when it comes to work done by the students is of help when explaining the GPA trends.

The report found high achieving students of lower socioeconomic backgrounds have a lower probability of taking advanced mathematics, advanced science, International Baccalaureate classes or AP courses when compared to their wealthier classmates.

For the economically disadvantaged students who do take AP courses, wide disparities on examination scores are seen.  About 68 percent of economically advantaged students achieved 3 (a pass score) or better. Socioeconomically disadvantaged students have a pass rate of  just 43 percent.  

There is good news in the report. Socioeconomically disadvantaged  students who were high achievers at the start have the close to the same probability of socioeconomically advantaged students to get admitted and graduate from a four year college.

Association of Educators