Responding to President Barack Obama's assertion that America is not in decline overseas, Chicago Tribune columnist Clarence Page says that "grim new reports on our educational gaps remind us that decline is like charity — it begins at home."

… Two new reports on educational achievement gaps reveal a surprising good news/bad news story: The gap between black and white students mercifully has shrunk, but the gap between rich and poor has dangerously grown.

The test score gap between the richest 10 percent and poorest 10 percent of students has grown by about 40 percent since the 1960s, according to a study by Stanford University sociologist Sean F. Reardon. That's twice the testing gap between blacks and whites, which shrunk significantly in all income levels, he said.

A separate study by University of Michigan researchers found the gap between students from rich and poor families in college completion also grew by about 50 percent since the late 1980s.


No wonder there's so much apocalyptic talk these days about the nation's future. We are emerging, thanks to the hard-won victories of the civil rights movement, out of an old order in which race was almost all you needed to know to forecast how well a young American was going to do in life. But we're beginning to slip below some European countries into a new caste system defined by family income.

For example, out of 55 countries in an Urban Institute study of countries that succeed in improving academic achievement of low-income children, the U.S. ranked 36th, according to the Education Trust, a nonprofit that focuses on closing the gap. 


Read Clarence Page's entire column at the Chicago Tribune.