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UC Berkeley study: More money doesn’t close the racial academic achievement gap

A study out of the University of California Berkeley has concluded that throwing money at “high needs” schools does not work in narrowing the racial academic achievement gap.

According to The Daily Californian, the study examined the 2013 education reform in California which gave over $1 billion to the Los Angeles Unified School District. While students’ test scores did improve, the gap between “English learners and economically disadvantaged students and nondisadvantaged students grew.”

The researchers attribute the continued gap to the latter groups’ being assigned novice and inexperienced teachers. UC Berkeley assistant professor of education Travis Bristol said “it would be ideal” if high needs students got experienced educators in their classrooms.

The study also found disadvantaged learners did better in low-poverty schools, and that increased funding led to fewer college-prep courses being offered in the district.

Despite the reform’s apparent failure to close the achievement gap, the study highlights the success of the state funding in changing organizational structures within LAUSD high schools as a promising find.

The study mentions two limitations: the lack of research of interaction between new resources entering schools and how campus leaders translate that into organizational change and the lack of budget data for individual LAUSD schools before the reform.

These limitations serve to highlight the need for additional research into the subject area, according to the study. Additionally, they emphasize the importance of whether and how money is distributed.

Education professor Bruce Fuller, co-author of the study, asked “If we’re spending an increase of $24 billion a year on education, why can’t we close these achievement gaps?”

The answer, unpopular as it is in progressive education circles, likely comes from folks like Sandra Stotsky, who say the main factor in determining a child’s educational success is his family background.

Nevertheless, states can and should establish quality standards for high school subjects, Stotsky says, which are taught by teachers who have passed “research-based, state-developed exams.” Teachers deemed “effective” should be those with “verbal skills and mastery of the subject(s) taught,” not those with some “proper” number of credits in a particular subject (especially education).

Another of Stotsky’s recommendations? Stopping funding for further “gap-closing research.”

Read the Daily Californian article.

MORE: Fix editor reviews book on why fads don’t help low-achieving students

MORE: Schools in conservative cities do better job closing achievement gap

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About the Author
Associate Editor
Dave has been writing about education, politics, and entertainment for over 15 years, including a stint at the popular media bias site Newsbusters. He is a retired educator with over 25 years of service and is a member of the National Association of Scholars. Dave holds undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Delaware.

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