By ANNMARIE LI
Just like the various “rags to riches” tales, the inequality between classes peaks in the first step of knowledge: education.
The education disparity between high and low-income students has become a larger problem over time. As the income gap between the rich and the poor increases, the quality of education in impoverished areas decreases, potentially discouraging a great number of children from pursuing a higher education or fulfilling career goals. Although there are government programs that support students, the staggering education gap will remain if the needs for low-income students are not met.
To illustrate, the growing income gap directly hinders education quality in an expensive age. According to a report from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, the leading factor for the income gap is the recent growth in self-employment and temporary contracts, limiting parents’ potential to support and pay for any educational necessities. These forms of employment are especially harmful to low-income families since this sort of work is likely the only source of income for the family.
Despite schools’ continuous efforts to mend this disparity, these methods never appear to work. One solution was to reduce class sizes, but two studies from 2013 and 2017 showed that only the wealthier students benefited from this solution, as the limiting of a class size leads teachers to spend more time with the higher achieving students while often neglecting the students who need the most help.
This reveals the glaring flaw in the current academic system: richer communities can prepare their children for the future, while poorer communities barely receive the necessities to give their children a decent education. What could this mean? The rich stay rich while the poor fend for themselves. As a matter of fact, according to a survey conducted by Ivy Morgan and Ary Amerikaner, poorer communities get less funding from the government. Considering how impoverished neighborhoods usually have a higher crime rate, this vehement funding gap only perpetuates a cycle of youth turning towards crime since they lack the basic skills for the real world.
Although there have been many education reform legislations such as No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the continuous efforts to lessen the education gap do not make much of a difference in the education disparity between social classes. The programs were intended to reduce the differences among schools by teaching students the same curricula for academic subjects. For instance, a major criticism for NCLB is its main remedies, Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) and a standardized curriculum, were not proven to increase students’ academic achievement in low-income and low-performing schools. In fact, over the programs’ duration, the gap has increased instead of decreased. This can be due to the standardization of teaching methods limits a teacher’s ability to respond to the various needs of students and discourages stigmatized low-income children from learning effectively.
Overall, education has always been a crucial key to one’s success, but without proper access, low-income students will not be able to set their priorities. It is time for the education system to fulfill the promise that anyone who reaches for the stars can succeed.