When educators discuss diversity in public schools and college prep boarding schools, they typically speak to racial diversity — or the ratio of white/Caucasian students to nonwhite students/students of color. While the benefits of racial and cultural diversity are well established, less research is conducted as to the benefits of socioeconomic diversity in schools.
Nearly 50 years ago, the Coleman Report found that — while socioeconomic status of a child’s family was the single most powerful predictor of a child’s academic achievement — the socioeconomic status of a child’s classmates was the second-most powerful predictor of academic success. Indeed, poverty is a bigger predictor of a child’s academic performance than any other characteristic—and the income achievement gap is now twice that of the racial achievement gap in the United States.
What can be done to close the gap between socioeconomically advantaged and disadvantaged students? For one thing, integration of the two groups together in the academic setting. Whether they’re enrolled in college prep boarding schools or charter schools, students who learn in a socioeconomically diverse environment perform better academically.
In fact, low-income students who attend schools with more affluent peers can boost their chances of getting a post-secondary education by nearly 70 percent. Make a push to decrease socioeconomic segregation to one-half the national average and you see a 10 percent increase in graduation rates among poor students. In addition, academic performance among upper-class students remains steady in a socioeconomically diverse environment.
Can the benefits of socioeconomic diversity be attributed merely to the increase in resources at upper-class charter schools or college prep boarding schools? Research indicates the benefits of socioeconomic diversity extend well beyond the mere increase in resources — students have been shown to perform better in wealthier schools with fewer resources than lower-income schools with a wider array of resources.
So what does this all mean for college prep boarding schools such as Wasatch Academy? The answer is clear: Socioeconomic diversity, in addition to racial/ethnic diversity, offers clear benefits to students from all walks of life. Not only does socioeconomic diversity help to promote a positive campus racial climate, it also encourages more frequent interaction across class and racial lines, and increased social mobility. In socioeconomically diverse schools, parents are more involved in the school, teachers are better, and students are surrounded by high-achieving peers.
It’s time to close the economic achievement gap in the United States. For a rigorous educational environment with the benefits of both socioeconomic and cultural diversity, Wasatch Academy is the place to be.