Focusing on preschool, health services and after-school programs is a “broader, bolder approach to education,” says a new task force.
Despite the impressive academic gains registered by some schools serving disadvantaged students, there is no evidence that school improvement strategies by themselves can close these gaps in a substantial, consistent, and sustainable manner.
Nevertheless, there is solid evidence that policies aimed directly at education-related social and economic disadvantages can improve school performance and student achievement.
There is? I’ve seen many programs tried without lasting success. Social programs can do little about incompetent, inconsistent parenting.
Eduwonkette backs the “broader, bolder” manifesto.
Eduwonk calls it That 70s Show.
I’m all for many of the proposals it champions, better access to health care and other social services, better access to pre-kindergarten education for low-income kids, using time more effectively …. those are all vitally important.
But, the conspicuous soft-pedaling of a focus on results and the explicit rejection that perhaps schools are even a substantial part of the educational problem is unsettling. It’s as though the debates and progress of the last 25 years didn’t happen at all.
. . . We do know that a lot of the â€œgapâ€ exists before kids come to school, but we also know that schools then exacerbate it because of a host of policies.
Fordham’s Mike Petrilli also thinks the manifesto is “squishy” on accountability. It also puts a lot of eggs in the preschool basket:
. . . we donâ€™t have any experience bringing high-quality preschool to scale, just like we donâ€™t have any experience bringing â€œno excusesâ€ schools to scale . . .
And finally, while itâ€™s fair to say that â€œschools aloneâ€ canâ€™t solve all these social problems, we shouldnâ€™t pretend that most schools are coming anywhere close to doing all they could be doing to narrow achievement gaps. As long as the vast majority of inner-city schools, in particular, use watered-down curricula, hire inadequate teachers, and refuse to create a culture of high expectations, then we wonâ€™t know just how much â€œschools aloneâ€ could do.
Indeed. Resources are limited: I think providing quality K-12 schools for poor kids is job one; this includes a longer school day and year, making after-school programs and summer school less important. Providing quality preschool is job two. Better health care for poor kids is good in itself but not going to close the achievement gap.
I’d also like to see a privately funded campaign that promotes good parenting: how to help your child develop language and reading skills and how to teach good behavior, for example.