The ‘achievement gap’ appears to be narrowing

September 05, 2016

By Megan Scudellari

Around Massachusetts, wide-eyed kindergartners step into classrooms this week. For lots of youngsters, the start of school feels like a fresh new beginning, yet many from low-income households begin the year already playing catch-up with their more affluent peers.

From the 1970s to the 1990s, the so-called “achievement gap,” or disparity in academic skills, between rich and poor kids grew by an estimated 40 percent. The danger of an early achievement gap is that it persists through higher grades, with poorer children consistently lagging behind their more affluent peers.

But now, for the first time in decades, researchers have detected a reversal of that trend: Low-income children are entering kindergarten with stronger reading and math skills than before, moderately narrowing the achievement gap with students from higher-income households.