One of the greatest things the Economic Policy Institute does is publish an annual State of Working America. It aggregates and beautifully presents almost all of the statistical indicators that someone interested in inequality, poverty, labor, and other similar subjects needs. Well, the 2012 edition is out and things look terrible, as expected. I might have more on the contents of it later, but for now, here is an interesting statistic consistent with a point I have been making for quite a while now:
Students of high socio-economic status (SES) have higher college completion rates than low SES students regardless of academic ability.
While 2.9 percent of low test-scoring, low SES students complete college, 30.3 percent of low-scoring, high SES students do.
Among high test-scoring, low SES students, 28.8 percent complete college, compared to 74.1 percent of high-scoring, high SES students.
Thus, high-scoring students of low socio-economic status are no more likely to complete college than low-scoring students of high socio-economic status.
This may be a bit jargon-heavy for some. But basically, when controlling for test scores (i.e. only comparing students with similar test scores) students from low socioeconomic backgrounds (racial minorities, poor people, etc.) do substantially worse than students from high socioeconomic backgrounds. This suggests that there is something specifically about being poor that is a serious impediment to education that goes far beyond the classroom and how well teachers teach. Education reformers are almost singularly focused on closing the test score gap between low and high socieconomic students. This statistic shows that closing that gap wont really achieve very much, and certainly wont achieve anything approaching equality.
Edit: The page I originally linked to was taken down, but this conveys similar information.