Close the readiness gap

Working together, high school and community college teachers can improve student success rates, writes Jordan E. Horowitz of the California Partnership for Achieving Student Success, or Cal-PASS. With student-data systems that track students from school to school, instructors can analyze remediation and course failure rates and align curricula and tests.

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  1. To really close the readiness gap, we need to close the wealth gap. The number one reason why kids come to school without the academic and social skills necessary to succeed is poverty.

    Middle class students consistently outscore lower income students on standardized tests and graduate at higher rates. However, the achievement gap is already firmly in place before children have even started school. Burkam and Lee examined average cognitive scores of children entering kindergarten and found that kids in the highest income group scored 60% higher than those in the lowest income group. Hart and Risely found similar class-based differences in language development and IQ among children as young as three.

  2. Wealth and poverty, in the economic sense, aren’t the issue; the issue is the knowledge, skills, habits and behaviors that create either one or the other. The possession of economic resources serves as a proxy variable for a whole array of positive traits such as self-control, deferred gratification, work ethic, goal-directed behavior and academic orientation. Such traits enable success in school, at work and in personal choices. When I was a child, these behaviors were specifically taught in both public and parochial schools, although most parents (most kids still had married biological parents) started the process. Bad choices are the hallmark of the intergenerational poor, resulting in educational failure, early unwed parenthood, crime, substance abuse and generally dysfunctionl behavior etc. Poor choices lead to poverty and the cycle continues. That does not mean that schools should not tailor their curriculum, instruction and school climate to counteract bad choices, insofar as possible.