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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

Rich kids, smart kids

Wealthy parents raise high-scoring children, according to new SAT and ACT data, reports Claire Cain Miller in the New York Times. "One-third of the children of the very richest families scored a 1300 or higher on the SAT, while less than 5 percent of middle-class students did," according to an analysis by Opportunity Insights, based at Harvard. Only a tiny percentage of lower-income students did that well. Most of them didn't take the test.

"Children from rich and poor families receive vastly different educations," writes Miller. "The differences among schools are less important than what happens outside of school," research suggests. It's "what children do in the evenings and on summer breaks, their parents’ vocabularies, and the level of stress in their home lives."

"The heritability of cognitive ability appears to play some role on an individual level," she writes, but environment matters too.

“K-12 schools only manage 10 percent of children’s time, and they do it pretty equitably,” said economist Nate G. Hilger, author of The Parent Trap. “The other 90 percent of nonschool time — early childhood, after school, summer, private extracurriculars, counseling, tutoring, coaching, therapy, health management — masks all the most important inequality of opportunity.”

Educated parents have embraced intensive parenting, immersing their children in enriching, educational experiences, writes Miller. "Half a century ago, rich and poor parents spent about the same amount of time with their children. Now high-income parents spend more one-on-one time with them." Robert Putnam, author of Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis, calls it "Goodnight Moon time.

As it happens, I read Goodnight Moon every night to my daughter for years. Last week, I gave her a copy at her baby shower. (I'm going to be a grandmother!!!) The reading chair by the crib is next to shelves of little-kid books.

Education researchers advocate "universal pre-K, increased funding for schools in low-income neighborhoods and reduced residential segregation," writes Miller.

Income segregation is driving achievement gaps, she writes. "Children are increasingly likely to live and attend schools in neighborhoods of concentrated poverty or affluence."

Creating socioeconomically mixed neighborhoods would help -- but is it doable?

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