Whither the Equality of Educational Opportunity in the USA?

Tuesday, 17 July 2018: 11:15
Oral Presentation
Pamela QUIROZ, The University of Houston, USA
Anthony Gary DWORKIN, Sociology, University of Houston, Houston, TX, USA
The U.S. Supreme Court declared that school segregation was unconstitutional in 1954 and in 1964 the U.S. Congress passed a Civil Rights Act that called for the equality of educational opportunity. Later court decisions endorsed policies that sought to create parity between the educational opportunities of minorities and majorities. The 1964 Civil Rights Act mandated a nation-wide study of inequality and led to findings in the Coleman Report of 1966 that there existed a significant test-score gap between African American and White students. Subsequent findings found a similar test-score gap between Hispanic and White students. The belief of federal courts and Congress was that the test-score gap would eventually vanish.

Since the 1970s, one assessment of the magnitude of the test-score gap was derived from results of a national achievement test of reading and mathematics, the NAEP, or National Assessment of Educational Progress, administered to students aged 9, 13, and 17. While the gaps between White students and African American and Hispanic minorities have narrowed over the past 40 years, they do persist. In fact, only when 13 year-old Whites are compared with 17 year-old African Americans and Hispanics do the gaps vanish.

Based on an elaboration of a chapter on the U.S.A. we prepared for The Palgrave Handbook of Racial and Ethnic Inequality, edited by Stevens and Dworkin (forthcoming), we attempt to explain the persistence of the gap in academic achievement between minority and majority group children. The analysis reviews sociological and educational research and data on student-level differences, family factors, neighborhood effects, school and teacher effects, as well as larger educational policies created under the aegis of neo-liberal pressures on school accountability and the emergence of color-blind racism. The analysis seeks to explain the struggle to attain equality of educational opportunity in the U.S.A.