For decades, researchers have documented large differences in average test scores between minority and white students and between poor and wealthy students. But a new study finds that Americans are more concerned about—and more supportive of proposals to close—wealth-based achievement gaps than Black-White or Hispanic-White gaps.
“The achievement gap’s ubiquity in policy discourse and implications for American society make it important to understand the public’s beliefs about it,” say the study’s authors, Jon Valant and Daniel A. Newark. “Many proposals for closing gaps require action from policymakers, and policymakers’ actions depend on the public’s views. Yet despite the import of public opinion, there have been few attempts to assess and compare what Americans believe about today’s gaps between students of different races, ethnicities, and economic statuses.”
The study found that 64 percent of American adults say it is essential or a high priority to close the poor-wealthy test score gap, whereas only 36 percent and 31 percent say the same about the Black-White gap and the Hispanic-White gap.
Looking across subgroups, the study found that white Americans (whether high-income or low-income) indicated it was a higher priority to close poor-wealthy gaps than to close Black-White and Hispanic-White gaps. There were no significant differences within the Black or Hispanic subgroups in how much they prioritized closing wealth-based versus race- and ethnicity-based gaps. Black respondents reported that closing the Black-White gap is a higher priority than closing the Hispanic-White gap, but no other subgroup demonstrated a statistically significant difference for this gap
“There are, of course, important considerations besides political feasibility in deciding how the discussion of educational inequality should be approached,” note the researchers, “But insofar as Americans are more concerned about wealth-based gaps than race- and ethnicity-based gaps, there could be greater political will—or less political resistance—for educational interventions perceived as beneficial to students in poverty.”
(Via: Washington Examiner)