A recent piece in the NYTimes http://nyti.ms/1FSbVoa observes that vulnerable students who go to college have lower college graduation rates than their higher SES peers. No shock there for those of us working in the trenches. No shock that even less good SAT scores of higher SES kids lead to better graduation statistics. Look at the book, Rewarding Strivers. Data there are telling.
(By the way, the access gap has not closed either, despite observations to the contrary.)
The key starting issue is why the gap. That is the question that we need to be addressing -- now. Once we know the whys, we can fashion solutions, which many of us have been doing albeit some us working in and on a relatively small scale. My forthcoming book, Are You Lastic?, formulates answers to both the "why" and "how to fix" questions.
Lest the article go unanswered on the "why" question and no one points out that that why/how are the real issues of the moment, here are four quick explanations (among many) for why low income students struggle in colleges compared to their higher SES counterparts. And, it is NOT because of intelligence or capacity -- of that I am and others are sure.
1. There is less quality collegiate preparation in the high schools many low SES students attend. Look at the number of AP courses and gifted programs in low income HS compared to high SES HS's. Hint: remediation is not the answer.
2. If you have lived with the expectation of college, you know what to expect when you land on campus. For many first gen students, going to college is like going to a foreign land. Not only is Point (1) above true but the institutions are not ready to serve ably the students they have accepted. One needs lots of support systems in place. Look at these two books: Hope in the Unseen and The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace.
3, Complex psycho-social issues arise in college and they are difficult for first gen low income students to navigate. Non-first gen higher income students struggle too. See this linked piece in Hechinger on the voices of gen students attending non-elite colleges. http://hechingerreport.org/why-most-first-generation-college-students-will-attend-second-tier-schools/
4. The tugs of home, the tugs of culture, the tugs of friends back home are strong pulls for first gen students for whom settling into a new situation means those relationships will change, perhaps immutably. That's tough -- on everyone. Doable, yes. Hard, yes. Look at this book: The Pact.
And this is just the tip of the iceberg. The reason for this response: let's move beyond the obvious. Let's stop admiring the problem of the growing achievement gap. Let's spend our time, our energy, our money and our best efforts towards closing that gap. Now that's a challenge worthy of all readers -- those within and outside education. Start with why and then craft doable, replicable and scalable solutions.
More articles by Karen Gross click here!