In an article published in EdNewsDaily, Roger Stark and Betsy Hill write:
“The greatest obstacle to discovery is the illusion of knowledge” —Roger Stark
The Illogical Logic of Title I Funding
Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 was intended to narrow the educational achievement gap for children from families with low socio-economic status (SES). The concept of equal opportunity was part and parcel of the social justice initiatives of the civil rights movement, and the assumption was that providing extra funding to schools with large populations of low-SES students would even the playing field. There is considerable debate over the question of whether Title I has been successful. Whatever one’s view, however, large disparities remain in the achievement levels of students from different SES levels.
The premise of compensatory funding is simple: With an even playing field in terms of funding for teaching and school buildings and technology and curriculum, all students can achieve the same level of success. The underlying assumption is that students with different SES status are essentially the same, that they come to our classrooms with the same capacity to learn and the same ability to benefit from good educational resources. Unfortunately, this is not the case. In fact, as this article discusses, poverty has a significant impact on cognitive development and students from low-SES families (on average) are functionally different from their more advantaged peers in cognitive abilities. They come to school with less well-developed capacity to learn and to be successful in school and in life. But the story doesn’t end there. Research has shown that cognitive abilities can be developed and that low-SES students can catch up, both cognitively and academically.
More than an Achievement Gap — A Capacity Gap
One of the earliest and most compelling studies illuminating the gap in capacity for low-SES children was Hart and Risley’s ground-breaking research on early family life and its effect on children’s IQ (Hart & Risley, 1995). Their extensive longitudinal study confirmed that early home life has a profound effect on school readiness including children’s cognitive ability. They demonstrated that language exposure in early childhood correlates strongly with IQ and academic success later in a child’s life. Hart and Risley’s findings gave rise to the push for pre-school resources for low-SES students, including Head Start.
Despite such efforts, however, the achievement gap persists, and a growing body of research confirms the disparity in cognitive ability between children from different socio-economic backgrounds.