Cause of the achievement gap

There has been considerable discussion as to whether the digital divide in the educational system is the result of lack of access to technology among minority students or simply cultural differences. Researchers have not reached consensus about the a priori causes of the academic achievement gap; instead, there exists a wide range of studies that cite an array of factors that influence student performance in school that are both cultural and structural. Annette Lareau suggested that students who lack middle-class cultural capital and have limited parental involvement are likely to have lower academic achievement than their better resourced peers. Other researchers suggest that academic achievement is more closely tied to race and socioeconomic status and have tried to pinpoint why. Hernstein and Murray claimed in The Bell Curve, creating much controversy, that genetic variation in average levels of intelligence (IQ) are at the root of disparities in achievement. The book drew severe criticism from various research fields. More subtle environmental factors have been implicated in the test score gap. For example, being raised in a low-income family often means having fewer educational resources in addition to limited access to health care and nutrition which could contribute to lower academic performance.

A large and growing body of research has also examined school quality and factors including segregation, student tracking, negative stereotyping, unequal finances allocation, low teacher expectations, as well as differences in teacher quality and curriculum between high and low wealth schools. Regardless of which factors have the greatest impact on the gap, it is clear that students of color and low-income students are more likely to find themselves at a distinct disadvantage in school in comparison to white students.

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