"Today, many dreams are hampered by an achievement gap between minorities and non-minorities and children of poverty and children of privilege." As Secretary of Education Roderick Paige noted in his remarks at the education fair hosted by Partners in Hispanic Education in 2003, equity in education has yet to be realized.
In predicting levels of student achievement, family incomes continue to be reliable indicators. Students who live in poverty are not only more likely to underachieve than their peers from middle- and high-income households, they are also at risk of not completing school. During the last twenty-five years, the drop out rate for economically disadvantaged students has declined, but it still remains substantially higher than for students from wealthier backgrounds. Students who are living in poverty are also more likely to be retained, suspended, and expelled from school (Wood, 2003).
In all academic subjects, children and teenagers from affluent households outperform low-income students. On the NAEP tests in reading, writing, science, mathematics, and United States history, students who are ineligible for federal free lunch programs because the incomes of their families are too high consistently have the highest scores. The lowest scores are earned by children who do qualify for the lunch programs. Somewhere in between fall the results for students who are eligible for reduced-price lunches. The pattern is the same for fourth-, eighth-, and twelfth-grade students (National Center for Education Statistics, 2004a). Similarly, on both the verbal and mathematics sections of the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT), the outcomes correlate to family income (College Board, 1999).
African American and Latino children are disproportionately affected by poverty. The Department of Education found that in 2003, 71% of Latino and 70% of African American students in the fourth grade qualified for free or reduced-price lunch programs. Twenty-three percent of White children did (National Center for Education Statistics, 2004b).
African American and Latino children are also more likely to attend what the U.S. Department of Education terms "high-poverty" schools (National Center for Education Statistics, 2004c). At such schools, 75% or more of the children qualify for the free lunch program.
The child poverty rate in the United States is higher than for most industrialized countries (Keegan-Eamon, 2002). Since the end of World War II, the federal government has provided some assistance to children through the public schools. The National School Lunch Act was signed by President Harry Truman in 1946, three years after Abraham Maslow published his theory on the hierarchy of human needs (Maslow, 1973).
As part of President Johnson's War on Poverty, the Head Start Program was established in 1965 to increase the readiness for school of low-income children from birth to age five. That same year, Title I, the first section of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, allowed for the provision of funds to schools with large numbers of low-income students.
The United States Supreme Court ruled against mandating equal financing for public schools in 1973. A class-action suit had been brought on behalf of students...
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