Monday, May 17, 2010

Start Young, Go Far

I've pointed this out before, but in case you missed it, I'll say it again. The achievement gap cannot be laid solely at the feet of differing levels of school quality. There are much bigger issues that need to be addressed before we can really and truly close that gap.

Don't believe me? Check out this article from the Daily News. Turns out that six of New York's 32 districts don't have enough incoming kindergarteners qualify for a gifted and talented program to offer even a single section (about 25 kids) in the district. Want to guess where those districts are? I'll give you a hint, it's not the Upper East Side where a single school can have enough kids qualify to open at least two sections. No, we're looking at Central Brooklyn and the South Bronx. Kind of the usual suspects when we're talking about these issues.

The important thing I want to highlight here is that these tests were given to incoming kindergarteners who have not yet attended even a single day of school. Even before they enter the system, these kids are starting behind. Seems a little unfair to blame the schools for that.

So what do we do?

Looking at information like this just makes me think that we need to start extending our efforts farther and younger. In neighborhoods like Central Brooklyn and the South Bronx we need to make better efforts to boost child health and nutrition. We need to provide more resources to help parents be better parents. We need to invest more in early childhood learning and intervention.

Clearly, the problems start before the kids get to school and extend far beyond what happens in that single building. We need to make sure our solutions do the same.

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