6 Books About Education Inequality

Carolina Jacobs

Dec 22, 2021

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Racial achievement gaps in the U.S. are narrowing. However, the journey to total equality is slow and progress is unsteady. In fact, the standardized test scores between white and black students still amount to roughly two years of education. This disparity represents major gaps in educational opportunity and calls on educators, administrators and the education system as a whole to make a change. If you want to learn more about education inequality and what you can do to create equal opportunities for all of your students, add the following books about education inequality to your list of must-reads. 

1. Teaching in the Flat World

Is high-stakes testing really the best way to assess students’ education and skills? This evaluation method is common within the U.S. However, it often leaves certain students behind. In Teaching in the Flat World, authors Linda Darling-Hammond and Robert Rothman appeal to the American education system to draw inspiration from other countries in which students receive more chances to succeed academically. 

This book delves deep into the systems for preparing, developing and supporting teachers in countries like Singapore and Finland. Then, it gives teachers actionable ways to emulate these systems so that students of all backgrounds and abilities have equal opportunities for success. 

2. Education Inequality: Closing the Gap

What might happen if, instead of researching the disadvantaged, the public focused its attention on what raises attainment among minorities, immigrants and low-income households? Author Feysia Demie envisions this alternate reality in her book Education Inequality: Closing the Gap. 

This inspiring read offers an in-depth look at interventions in one poor inner-city school and how they’re offering equal opportunities for students to receive a high-quality education. Feysia’s research and analysis point to outstanding teachers, parents, a governing body and a community that all work together to effectively achieve this goal. 

3. Other People’s Children: Cultural Conflict in the Classroom

Prejudice, stereotypes and assumptions breed ineffective education in the classroom. However, they’re quite common in today’s classrooms because teachers are poor cultural transmitters, according to author Lisa Delpit.

In her book, she explains how primarily white teachers educate other people’s children and perpetuate systematic racism and imbalance within the education system and beyond. Because these educators can’t communicate effectively, people of color and other minorities suffer academically. In light of recent events, every teacher could stand to read this radical analysis. 

4. Savage Inequalities: Children in America’s Schools

Across the U.S., 53 school districts give a statistically significant amount less funding to high-poverty schools than low-poverty schools. In another 263 districts, funding has little to no connection to poverty levels, despite apparent disparities. Savage Inequalities addresses this funding gap and takes a closer look at how the public education system is failing today’s kids. 

To write his analysis, author Jonathan Kozol spent two years touring the country, interviewing school staff and students. He argues that underfunded schools have higher dropout rates and that school districts should equalize funding in the name of achieving educational equity. 

5. Between the World and Me 

What is it like to inhabit a black body and live within it? How can our nation reckon with a history of slavery and segregation and free ourselves from this historical burden? In his book Between the World and Me, Ta-Nehisi Coates attempts to answer these questions and explain his own awakening to the truth about his place in the world. 

Because the book is written as a letter to Ta-Nehisi’s 15-year-old son, it often focuses on youth and education. Because he believes that true knowledge will dispel the myths on which racism is built, he is a major proponent of study and learning. The more people understand where inherent injustice comes from, the more apt they’ll be to abolish it. 

6. So Much Reform, So Little Change 

In his book So Much Reform, So Little Change, Charles Payne explains why 30 years of reform has had little effect on urban public schools. At its heart, the text argues that most educational policies are disconnected from reality, especially in poor communities. 

This difficult yet necessary read will likely upset teachers whom Charles has depicted as naive and part of the problem. However, instructors who are willing to be the change will take his words as a wake-up call. Instead of feeling like the victim or calling for further reform, they’ll take initiative and work to find better solutions starting with their own classroom. 

Keeping an Open Mind 

Reading about and experiencing education inequality can be a heart-wrenching experience. However, learning more about other people’s struggles will help to root out the inherent bias that exists at a subconscious level. 

As you take in the words of these authors, try to keep an open mind and constantly reevaluate yourself. Are you doing all that you can to create equal opportunities for your students? How might you educate fellow teachers and administrators about systematic inequality and disparities within your own school system? As with anything, change starts with you. You just have to take that first step, and reading one of these books is a good place to start.

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