NotesFAQContact Us
Search Tips
Peer reviewed Peer reviewed
Direct linkDirect link
ERIC Number: EJ1105034
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2016-Jul
Pages: 3
Abstractor: ERIC
ISSN: ISSN-0038-0407
Gamoran Comment on Downey and Condron
Gamoran, Adam
Sociology of Education, v89 n3 p231-233 Jul 2016
In the half century since the 1966 Coleman Report, scholars have yet to develop a consensus regarding the relationship between schools and inequality. The Coleman Report suggested that schools play little role in generating achievement gaps, but social scientists have identified many ways in which schools provide better learning environments to advantaged children compared to disadvantaged children. As a result, a critical perspective that views schools as engines of inequality still dominates contemporary sociology of education. However, an important body of empirical research challenges this critical view. In this article, Adam Gamoran, John D. MacArthur Professor Emeritus of sociology and educational policy studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, weighs in on this discussion. Gamoran, has also conducted research on educational inequality and school reform during his career, and shares his insight, and experience on the topic of achievement differences here: (1) Gamoran writes that he thinks the Downey-Condron (DC) report is too quick to abandon schools as a potential source of social justice, because the findings they report should be understood in the context of a vastly unequal system of test performance that stands out among developed nations as such; (2) Gamoran asserts that the primary evidence of achievement inequality growing more during the summer, when school is not in session, than during the school year has been attenuated in some contexts; (3) As DC acknowledge, findings about racial inequality in test performance differ from those for socioeconomic inequality, with some studies pointing to racial gaps that widen faster during the school year than during the summer (Downey, von Hipple, and Broh 2004); and (4) Research about the impotence of schools to reduce inequality draws on representative samples of schools. Yet innovative models of schools do exist that, in contrast to the typical school, do not maintain inequality. Gamoran goes on to remind the reader that in emphasizing the real challenge of using schools to reduce inequality, DC offers one of Coleman's principal insights: "Equality of opportunity does not guarantee equality of results." Coleman showed that providing similar resources to schools attended by black and white students did not achieve equal outcomes among these groups. Consequently, he redefined equality of opportunity as equality of "results." Gamoran closes the article by saying that it is this conceptual shift that is the true legacy of the Coleman Report, and DC do well to bring educators back to it. [For "Fifty Years since the Coleman Report: Rethinking the Relationship between Schools and Inequality," see EJ1104970.]
SAGE Publications. 2455 Teller Road, Thousand Oaks, CA 91320. Tel: 800-818-7243; Tel: 805-499-9774; Fax: 800-583-2665; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Opinion Papers; Reports - Evaluative
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Grant or Contract Numbers: N/A