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Studies show poor, talented students are being left behind

Recent studies show the “excellence gap” is growing for U.S. students.

“To succeed in America, it’s better to be born rich than smart,” says Anthony P. Carnevale, director of Georgetown’s Center on Education and the Workforce.

Two recent studies show that children with similar academic talent have vastly different chances for success later in life depending on their socioeconomic status.

A study from Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce (CEW) tracked students in four socioeconomic status (SES) “quartiles” from kindergarten to high school, measuring their math scores over time. The researchers found that many lower-SES children with good grades in kindergarten are no longer among the best-scoring students by the time they get to high school.  The researchers point out that while the lower-income students are just as smart as their wealthier peers, they lack the resources to “bounce back” if they stumble, which can have a snowball effect as students fall further and further behind over the years.

Researchers from the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation uncovered similar trends. Their research brief published this month focuses on students who earned the “advanced” designation on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), a standardized test for primary and secondary school achievement. They found that at the 4th, 8th, and 12th grade levels, the percentage of students from higher-income families achieving an “advanced” score in both reading and math is much higher than the percentage for children from lower-income families.

The long-term impact of this gap is sobering. CEW researchers found that of the 37 percent of lower-income students who were earning good math grades in high school, only 25% earned a degree by age 25. The Cooke Foundation notes that more than half (56%) of economically-disadvantaged students do not apply for federal financial aid through the FAFSA and nearly a fourth never apply to college at all.

The studies and other resources are available for download by visiting:

The Jack Kent Cooke Foundation
The Excellence Gap is Growing

Georgetown University Center on Education and Workforce Education
Born to Win, Schooled to Lose

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