The following HTML text is provided to enhance online
readability. Many aspects of typography translate only awkwardly to HTML.
Please use the page image
as the authoritative form to ensure accuracy.
Achieving High Educational Standards For All: Conference Summary
levels of residents of segregated, high-poverty neighborhoods and the elevated high school dropout rate of Hispanics in particular:
Parents’ education often constructs a floor below which offspring are not likely to fall. However, for some minority populations with historically low levels of education, such as Hispanics and many recent immigrants from Latin America and some Asian nations, parents’ education may also represent a ceiling that young people’s achievements are unlikely to surpass. This circumstance underscores one of the great dilemmas of equal opportunity—namely, that family background remains decisive in shaping individual opportunity beyond what is objectively possible through economic prosperity alone. . . . If educational inequalities cannot be narrowed during prosperous times, they certainly will not improve during leaner years.
SOCIODEMOGRAPHIC VARIABLES AND CHILDREN’S LEARNING
In the landmark study, Equality of Educational Opportunity, James Coleman and his colleagues found that the social and demographic characteristics of students and their families exerted far more influence on education outcomes than what happened in school (Coleman et al., 1966). Tienda’s comments suggest that little has changed that would invalidate Coleman’s 35-year-old findings. Also citing Coleman, Gordon stated, “The challenge to the nation is to uncouple academic achievement from the social divisions by which we classify people.”
Various social and demographic characteristics have been associated with styles of childrearing, patterns of social interactions in the family, and differential access to home learning resources, such as books and computers (National Research Council, 2000c, 2001b). While noting how measures of school readiness vary according to parents’ social and demographic backgrounds, Bowman, Ramey, and Snow (Chapter 3), and Slavin (Chapter 6) focused their comments primarily on educational strategies to increase the access of disadvantaged students to the kinds of experiences that research has found to effectively promote learning. They suggested that well-designed preschool and early grade school programs can give young children the kind of solid foundation they need for future learning—the kind of foundation that would put them on equal footing with children from more advantaged backgrounds. They also noted, however, that sustaining gains made by disadvantaged students who were enrolled in exemplary early childhood education programs is very difficult and all too frequently is not achieved.
The determinativeness of family social and demographic characteristics and the alterability of specific learning-relevant behaviors and atti-