The Simple Reform That Improved Black Students’ Earnings

Students may not relish changes in graduation requirements, especially when it means more math classes are required in order to graduate. However, taking more math classes can lead to a noticeable increase in the amount of money black students go on to earn after high school. This is the takeaway from new research by Joshua Goodman, an associate professor of public policy at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. Goodman used census data and high-school transcripts from the 1980s and ’90s to compare the amount of math coursework a student had done, with their earnings later on. Remarkably, Goodman found that black students who attended high school in states that required more math courses saw their earnings go up by more than three percent. Even more surprising, Goodman found that white students did not see the same increase in income, because they were already taking the classes. Black students largely did not have access to or were not offered the higher levels of math classes that white students were (such as algebra 2 or calculus). Goodman’s data suggests that when higher expectations are in place for everyone, and students and teachers have fewer choices about which courses to take or push children towards, the achievement gap shrinks. This study presents clear evidence, that through curriculum reform, there is potential to close the racial and socioeconomic earning gaps that are the focus of much research and public policy. Obviously, if we are not preparing all students to graduate with the same level of education, we can not expect them to be able to perform and have the same success in the work force later on. It is thus imperative that school employees be aware of the impact bias can have on their judgement, and learn how to overcome it to better serve students and prepare them for success. Read the full Atlantic article Here