I once read that standardized test scores are a great way to measure one thing--the size of the houses in a school district. Though hyperbolic, there is truth in this statement. The link between income and education is probably stronger than in any time in recent history. Why is this? Why is the amount of money your parent(s) make such a determinate of your likely success in school? One study gives a clue, "affluent children spend 1,300 more hours than low-income children before age 6 in places other than their homes". This means that children from higher income homes are getting more life experiences. Think of the implications of this... more exposure to interesting geography, architecture, art, road trips, air travel, family vacations, museums, libraries, etc. All of these experiences expose kids to life's possibilities--careers, forms of success, literacy opportunities, and the general intriguing things about life. All of this translates into a deeper and more intrinsic interest in learning and working hard for what you want.
What can we do as teachers to provide a counter balance? We can't change their past, but we can affect their future. We can create more intriguing learning experiences in our classroom. We can build an inspiration to learn and rebuild a positive concept of their future. We need to expose our kids to the amazing possibilities the world has to offer and cultivate their confidence so they have the courage to work hard for what they want. Textbooks, worksheets, and standardized test scores will never break down the wall in the picture. If we can get our kids excited about learning and working toward their future, the test scores will take care of themselves and that wall will crumble.