Ashley M. California

Income Inequality and American Education

Differences in income cause the American education system to be biased against lower-income students.

Income inequality has the chance to affect student’s learning. As young as the age of 5, students who could not afford to access preschool before kindergarten are at a disadvantage. According to a study by Dionne Estes at the Dominican University of California, students who did not attend preschool had a decreased success rate in their kindergarten and elementary school careers, as well as effects lasting all the way into high school. The study showed that preschool prepared kids emotionally and socially for school, and that being familiar with the rigid schedule and social settings of a school-like environment helped the children adapt.

Another way income inequality has changed schooling in recent years is the adoption of computerized standardized tests at the beginning and end of each year. The students who have never used a computer before or do not have access to one at home would be disadvantaged by the unfamiliar system. These students might score lower on the tests due to their inexperienced with electronics, and therefore be perceived as less intelligent than their classmates.

Often, low income families are also single parent households. In these situations, as the cost of living is very high, especially with children, the parent often has to work extra hours. This leads to them not being home to help their children with homework. This means that lower income students are less likely to be able to get help when they need it and fall behind in school. In addition, if a higher income is struggling, the parent may hire a tutor to help them understand and learn the material. However, a low income family would often be unable to access tutors because they are an added expense, leaving lower income families disadvantaged.

Much later in life, high school students also show where having a low income disadvantages students. Tests such as the SAT and ACT are designed to be difficult. However, if a student can afford preparatory tools such as classes and prep books, that student is much more likely to get a high score. This can cut students who are not naturally suited to these types of tests, as most students are, out of many colleges with a minimum score requirement.

These impairments severely affect the education of low income students. Reforms such as mandatory, free preschool, computer help for those unfamiliar with the technology,  free tutoring for struggling kids, and more fair standardized tests would help improve the education system so low income students can be just as successful as their classmates.

Newbury Park High School

IB Lang & Lit HL 1 - Period 3A (Lilly)

Newbury Park's period 3A IB Lang & Lit course

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