Rich-poor reading divide in Baltimore
linked to what happens over break.
It’s been a truism for decades that students’ learning slips during the summer, and that low-income children fall farther behind than their classmates, but no one had connected the longitudinal data dots to show just what the cumulative consequences of the summer slide might be. Until now.
A recent study by sociology professor Karl L. Alexander and colleagues at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore concludes that two-thirds of the reading achievement gap between 9th graders of low and high socioeconomic standing in Baltimore public schools can be traced to what they learned—or failed to learn—over their childhood summers.
The study, which tracked data from about 325 Baltimore students from 1st grade to age 22, points out that various characteristics that depend heavily on reading ability—such as students’ curriculum track in high school, their risk of dropping out, and their probability of pursuing higher education and landing higher-paying jobs—all diverge widely according to socioeconomic levels.
“I call this the Harry Potter divide,” said Alan B. Krueger, a professor of economics and public policy at Princeton University, referring to a 2000 poll by the Princeton, N.J.-based Gallup Organization that asked adults if any of their children were reading the wildly popular series of eponymous books. The poll results showed a wide gap in the responses, based on income.
“Children from low [socioeconomic-status] backgrounds don’t get that reading enrichment,” said Mr. Krueger, who was chief economist of the U.S. Department of Labor in the Clinton administration.
...The study, which appeared in the April issue of the American Sociological Review, makes use of data from reading tests that were administered to the same students twice yearly, enabling researchers to isolate reading comprehension gains made during the school year with those made—or lost—during the summer.
Although the limited national data available on the subject had suggested that the gap between rich and poor would be wide, Mr. Alexander said the numbers on summer from his Baltimore study took him aback.
“What surprised me was the size of the summer learning difference,” he said....
This from Education Week (subscription).