In America, it's better to be born wealthy — which often means white — than to be born smart, Erica Pandey writes.
Why it matters: For decades, the U.S. has held up schooling as the key to unlocking the American dream, but the facts tell us that education's promise is false.
The big picture: Family income is perhaps the strongest determinant of student success, and low income becomes an even higher barrier when it intersects with race.
- Even when Black students from poor families start kindergarten with above-median test scores, 63% test below the median by the time they're in the eighth grade, a recent Georgetown University study found.
- Among kindergartners in the same high-achieving, but lower-income category, nearly 2 in 5 Latino students, nearly 2 in 5 white students and 1 in 5 Asian students also saw lower scores over time.
- High-achieving students of color are too often overlooked by teachers and administrators: The odds of Black and Latino children being referred to gifted programs are 66% and 47% lower than white students, respectively, per the Fordham Institute.
Terence Fitzgerald, an education professor at the University of Southern California said: "If the silver bullet means education will give me the agency and resources to succeed, that it will give me power that is equal to a white man’s, that is a lie."
- "That will not happen. It hasn’t happened for me."
What's happening: Decades of redlining and exclusionary zoning practices have segregated our neighborhoods and, by extension, our public schools.
- The ZIP code in which you grow up determines what school you attend. And of the 10 million kids living in America's toughest neighborhoods — based on poverty rate, access to nutritious food, school quality and more — 4.5 million are Latino and 3.6 million are Black.
- There's a $23 billion school funding gap between districts serving mostly white students and districts serving mostly students of color.
Students of color — particularly Black students — are disproportionately disciplined at school, and disciplined more harshly, from a very young age.
- Black students are overrepresented among students suspended from public schools by 22%, per a GAO report.
- Inconsistent school discipline can rapidly fray students' trust and engagement in school — and saddle them with delinquency records, fueling the school-to-prison pipeline.
What to watch: The coronavirus pandemic has supercharged education's inequities, including access to broadband or to devices to connect to remote online classes.
The bottom line: "The idea that this is about who’s smart and who’s not is just not true," says Anthony Carnevale, founder and director of Georgetown’s Center on Education and the Workforce. "In the end, the system pretty much places you where you were as a child. Education is the problem. It is not the solution."