Burchinal: Examining the Achievement Gap Among Low-Income Children

October 01, 2011

Burchinal examines the achievement gap among low-income children. Her study shows the gap is well established before children even reach preschool. This study makes a strong case for early intervention when children are infants and toddlers.

By Margaret Burchinal, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and University of California-Irvine; Kathleen McCartney, Harvard University; Laurence Steinberg, Temple University; Robert Crosnoe, University of Texas; Sarah L. Friedman, Institute for Public Research, The CNA Corporation; Vonnie McLoyd, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; Robert Pianta, University of Virginia; and NICHD Early Child, Care Research Network.

The Black–White achievement gap in children’s reading and mathematics performance from 4½ years of age through fifth grade sampled 314 lower-income American youth followed from birth. Differences in family, child care, and schooling experiences largely explained Black–White differences in achievement. Instructional quality was also a stronger predictor for Black children. In addition, the achievement gap was detected in children as young as 3 years of age. Taken together, the findings suggest that reducing the Black–White achievement gap may require early intervention. Researchers also concluded that those interventions should include home and school experiences for infants, toddlers, preschoolers and school-age children.


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