A new study from the American Educational Research Association suggests that the math performance gap between poor and wealthy students is largely due to a discrepancy in the quality of the math content presented in these students’ schools.
The goal of public education is to provide students an equal opportunity to learn; ideally, if students show up and study hard, they will see educational gains that can help them forge a better future for themselves after school. Unfortunately, at this point in time, many public schools are not providing this opportunity.
The study suggests that “tracking” is one of the major issues of our current school system. Through tracking, different groups of students are taught different material. This occurs even for students enrolled in the same subject; from class to class, content can differ wildly.
The Common Core State Standards may help ameliorate this particular problem. Designed as a set of guidelines to shape student learning from K-12, the Common Core could help smooth out the educational disparities we see today. However, teachers must be supported while learning and adjusting to the new ideas and strategies set forth in the Common Core.
It is worth noting that these disparities in math learning occur in many other countries besides the United States. However, other countries—Sweden and Iceland are mentioned specifically—have managed to provide much more equal content to students of diverse socioeconomic statuses.