NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Closing the Learning Gap

August 26, 2003

In efforts to close the learning gap between blacks and Hispanics, and whites and Asians, researchers and policy makers are looking more closely at what goes on before children even enter a formal classroom.

  • Sean Reardon, a professor of education and sociology at Pennsylvania State University, estimates that about 60 percent of the gap can be accounted for by the income and education-level differences of parents.
  • Another 6 percent is attributable to neighborhood differences, such as concentrated poverty.
  • Upon entering kindergarten, only 20 percent of black children have prereading skills -- knowing to move from left to right across type, dropping down to the start of the next line when the first one ends, and turning the page when reaching the bottom -- compared with 45 percent of whites; about a quarter of blacks and Hispanics don't have any.
  • By the time they reach 12th grade, blacks and Hispanics are reading at about the same level as white and Asian eighth graders.

Observers say that advances that narrowed the learning gap in the 1970s and 1980s are now threatened by growing state budget shortfalls, a rise in segregation at schools, and the increase in unemployment and homelessness.

Source: June Kronholz, "Educators Are Trying to Close The Stubborn Learning Gap," Wall Street Journal, August 19, 2003.

For WSJ text,,SB106124128144815600,00.html


Browse more articles on Education Issues