Educational differences run deep by race, ethnicity, and income in new report

California’s poor showing in a national study of children’s well-being came despite increases in academic achievement. California students improved on all four indicators in education, according to the 23rd annual Kids Count report released last week by the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

2012 Kids Count: California measures of child well-being. Source: Annie E. Casey Foundation. (click to enlarge)

Between 2005-07 and 2008-10, more children enrolled in preschool, more fourth and eighth grade students were proficient in reading and math respectively, and more high school students graduated on time. The increases ranged from four to six percent. But it wasn’t enough to lift the state above an education ranking of 43 out of the 50 states.

California fared little better in its overall score, coming in at 41 based on its performance in all four categories scored by Kids Count. In addition to education, the report examined economic well-being, health, and family and community.

The four categories are generally intertwined, so new research indicating that family income has trumped race and ethnicity as a potential cause of the education achievement gap may be part of the reason California did so poorly. Nationwide, the gap between socioeconomic level and academic achievement is “nearly twice as large as the Black/white achievement gap,” wrote Stanford education professor Sean Reardon in his study The Widening Academic Achievement Gap Between the Rich and the Poor. “That’s the opposite of what it was 50 years ago.”

Reardon said that family income is almost as strong at predicting how well children will do in school as is theirparents’ level of education.

Children living in poverty, by race, ethnicity & income. Source: American Community Surveys, 2009 and 2010. (Click to enlarge)

It’s possible that the dramatic plunge in family income due to the recession is too recent to have reversed the improvements in educational achievement from nearly two decades of major reform initiatives in the state. But Reardon sees those insidious changes coming. He found that among children born in the past 20 years, the achievement gap based on income when they enter kindergarten is two to three times larger than the achievement gap between black and white students.

The number of children living in poverty in California increased by nearly 166,000 between 2009 and 2010. More than 2 million of the state’s children are in families living on less than $22,000 a year.

“Poverty is one of the greatest threats to a child’s healthy development,” wrote Oakland-based Children Now in an overview of the Kids Count findings. “The stress associated with poverty and financial strain can negatively impact children’s cognitive development and ability to learn.”

A more powerful influence, according to Kids Count, is living in an area of concentrated poverty, defined as a community where at least 30 percent of the families are below the poverty line. In Fresno, 43 percent of children live in these areas, the fifth-highest rate in the nation. Statewide, 1.5 million children are affected, and they are disproportionately children of color. African Americans, Latinos, and Native Americans are about three times more likely than white kids to live in areas of concentrated poverty.

Fourth grade reading proficiency by race. Source: 2012 Kids Count. (click to enlarge)

“In some domains, such as Education, wide inequities among children tempered progress for all,” wrote the authors of Kids Count. “Despite perennial hand wringing about a ‘crisis in education,’ high school graduation rates and national math and reading scores for students of all races and income levels are higher than ever. Although there’s plenty of room for improvement, the overall trend is positive. However, we continue to see deep disparities in educational achievement by race and especially by income.”

Native American and African American children are nearly twice as likely as white children to have parents who don’t have permanent, full time,

year-round jobs. According to the advocacy group Preschool California, even though it’s been well documented that high-quality preschool can improve school readiness and start to level the playing field, California’s subsidized preschool program only serves 30 to 40 percent of eligible three- and four-year-olds, and just 14 percent of Latino children are in preschool programs that prepare them for success in school.

Children Now warns that unless state leaders and advocates can get together and make education a priority, the outlook is glum. “In a state like California, where Hispanic children make up the majority, disparities like these have big implications for the economic and civic future of our state.”

Filed under: High-Needs Students, Reforms, Testing and Accountability

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16 Responses to “Educational differences run deep by race, ethnicity, and income in new report”

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  1. Marian Devincenzi on Jul 31, 2012 at 7:30 pm07/31/2012 7:30 pm

    • 000

    July 31, 2012

    My hobby is studying beginning reading. My opinion is that the children having difficulty in learning to read have not had the EASIEST METHOD used in teaching them.

    I have sent letters to the California State Department of Education and a few foundations asking for a pilot study on Mary Pecci’s method.

    Per Mary, a teacher in Mexico used her beginning readers and he was thrilled that his students were learning to speak English at the same time they were learning to read. Ms. Pecci has now finished her reading series for first grade.

    The Pre-Primers are for kindergarten and the Primer and 1-1 Reader are for first grade. After that you can use other materials.

    Marian Devincenzi


    • GEnene on Aug 1, 2012 at 9:13 pm08/1/2012 9:13 pm

      • 000

      I am a bilingual retired educator & am intrigued by your ideas. I worked with immigrant learners grades 4-12, adult learners both with literacy& with no literacy in their primary language. I am now in Olympia, Washington, wanting to become more involved in family literacy. Can you keep me on a listserve for any other research you pursue?

      Olympia, Wa.
      Davis, Ca.

  2. Paul Muench on Jul 31, 2012 at 6:28 am07/31/2012 6:28 am

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    I don’t think anyone is suggesting that democracy by dollars is preferable, rigth?

  3. Ann on Jul 31, 2012 at 12:26 am07/31/2012 12:26 am

    • 000

    To clarify Judge Mariana Pfaelzer did rule 187 unconstitutional but Davis,who had vowed to uphold his constitutional duty to defend the proposition which was under appeal instead set up a kangaroo mediation-as described by the attorneys there to uphold Pfailzer’s ruling!

  4. Paul Muench on Jul 30, 2012 at 7:52 pm07/30/2012 7:52 pm

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    Whether it makes sense or not Californians do have a strong record of voting against illegal immigration. Although the courts have stepped in and overuled a lot of that sentiment. The reality we all face is that so many people are willing to go to great lemgths to make a better life and many of our neighbors see that commg to the US is the best way to pursue that life. So we might do netter to see the issue as greater American prosperity than illegal immigration.


    • Ann on Jul 30, 2012 at 11:13 pm07/30/2012 11:13 pm

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      One judge held Prop 187 in her court until Gray Davis, who had promised to defend the will of Californians as a candidate, “settled” with no one in the room to represent the backers of the law. Of course those of us who want laws enforced are talking about interior enforcement;no social welfare and requiring E-verify.

    • jskdn on Jul 31, 2012 at 9:52 am07/31/2012 9:52 am

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      You mean people didn’t immigrate illegally to this country in order to achieve worse lives; who would have thought? If there weren’t well understood motivations for people wanting to come this country and the desire of the citizens of this country to limit immigration, we wouldn’t need laws to constrain their coming. Of course, since those laws weren’t enforced at the behest of elites that wanted that, well represented here, illegal immigration has been pervasive. California has been the leader there. The demographics resulting from illegal immigration in this state are immense, and there is a strong correlations between those demographics, poor academic performance in our schools and poverty. That’s true even though there illegal immigration produced negative externalities to the non-elites not part of that demographic who compete for lower-skilled jobs, housing and other resources, especially in black communities. Importing poverty is bad for the poorer citizens of this country, not that it matters to the elites.

      • navigio on Jul 31, 2012 at 11:05 am07/31/2012 11:05 am

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        Allow me to posit that political elites (whatever that means, though seems to be used as a synonym for political leaders) respond to the feedback they get from constituents. While constituents may say one thing, they do quite another. Illegal immigration is one way in which this hypocrisy is extreme. I would guess that this effectively reduces the priority of the issue for our leaders, given that there are so many other pressing issues (opinion polls seem to show that stark difference in priority between our leaders and our electorate as well). IMHO, the ‘solution’ is simple: change our behavior if its really what we believe. Labor is, after all, subject to market forces. No demand, no supply.

        Anyway, this is an education forum. The interesting question for me is whether the goal of ‘interior enforcement’ includes starving public education (which is still majority citizen enrollment) as a means to try to ‘force out’ illegal immigrants. I have long felt this was one of the underlying causes of our public education finance disaster (and a moral tragedy if its true), but its interesting to hear it explicitly stated.

  5. navigio on Jul 30, 2012 at 5:40 pm07/30/2012 5:40 pm

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    Virtually everyone I know uses illegal alien labor in some form or another. Mostly at restaurants, but also for construction, day-labor, gardening, painting, harvest, truck driving, etc, etc. Money speaks louder than laws for most people, and the votes we submit with our dollars every day are MUCH more powerful than any vote we issue at the ballot box. So yes, I’d say complicit is an appropriate description. In fact, I’d even say we as a society have asked to have them here via this behavior.

  6. Candace on Jul 30, 2012 at 1:41 pm07/30/2012 1:41 pm

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    Bottom line, every time you eat you are benefitting from illegal immigration. It’s the American public’s insitiance on low low prices that support both illegal immigration and the export of American jobs to other places.

    Illegal immigrants would not come to the U.S. if all the businesses and farms that employ them were paying better wages for back-breaking labor so that U.S. citizens would be willing to work there.

    I suppose we could eliminate all the safety net programs so that U.S. citizens would have to either take the jobs or starve. So long as you are able to harden your heart to all the malnourished children and bear the burden of an even more extremely high crime rate.

  7. Ann on Jul 30, 2012 at 12:35 pm07/30/2012 12:35 pm

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    Really? Complicit eh? Have an election, put it (back) on the ballot and see. The public is against illegal immigration always has been. And saying,”they aren’t going anywhere”? Well I guess if our President and others government officials continue to subvert our laws that may be true but it doesn’t have to be. Its interesting how the poverty level in Mexico has fallen inversely to ours having risen….


    • CarolineSF on Jul 30, 2012 at 8:53 pm07/30/2012 8:53 pm

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      Entire neighborhoods and communities would collapse without illegal immigration — probably mine and probably yours, @Ann. People may CLAIM they hate it, but who’s watching their kids, cleaning their houses, mowing their yards and reroofing their houses? Actions speak…

      • Ann on Jul 30, 2012 at 11:07 pm07/30/2012 11:07 pm

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        I am…watching my own children, cleaning my own house and mowing my own yard. Roofing?, Drywalling? Cement? Talk to the millions of out of work citizens whose lively hoods and lives were changed by the massive influx of illegal immigrants. Most of us are not hiring illegal aliens and if you are, shame on you.

        • CarolineSF on Jul 31, 2012 at 7:02 am07/31/2012 7:02 am

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          You need to get out more, @Ann.

  8. Ann on Jul 30, 2012 at 10:48 am07/30/2012 10:48 am

    • 000

    How did the children’s poverty rate get to 43% in Fresno? Illegal immigration. After allowing (encouraging, supporting) this for 30 years following the 1986 IRCA, we are now supposed to wring our hands about how poorly the children of illegal immigrants perform in school because they cluster in poor enclaves all over California? Never mind we are told, we NEED the low-skilled low wage employees. This is not an unforeseen consequence. We reap what we sow, and this has happened against the specific will of the public.


    • navigio on Jul 30, 2012 at 12:30 pm07/30/2012 12:30 pm

      • 000

      Not that it matters, but I believe this has been happening with the (even explicit) complicity of the public.

      Regardless, note the last sentence in the story. These kids aren’t going anywhere and unless we do something about it, we will once again one day be lamenting the fact that we are reaping then what we are sowing today.

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