Closing the Achievement Gap

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David Kirp notes today that the academic achievement gap is widest among African American males. Better preschool can help, but it doesn’t do any good unless it’s followed up with plenty of other things:

What does work? Reducing class size to 14 or 15 students, a large-scale Tennessee experiment demonstrated, can generate big academic gains in the long run. Focusing on reading is also smart practice….Keeping schools open from dawn to dusk, six days a week — offering youngsters a raft of medical, social and psychological supports, academic help, sports and activities — also has a demonstrable effect on academics…. Carefully scrutinized mentoring programs like Big Brothers or Friends of the Children, which keeps mentors involved in the lives of the hardest-to-reach youngsters from kindergarten through high school, have been proven to rewrite life-scripts for such children, including African American males.

….Changing students’ attitudes about the value of hard work also makes a difference. A study of black eighth-graders found that students’ self-discipline was twice as good a predictor of grades as IQ. Charter schools, like those run by Green Dot and KIPP (Knowledge Is Power Program), that emphasize character-building have narrowed the achievement gap for adolescent black males. At one Green Dot school in L.A., 68% of African American male students graduated in four years, while at a nearby public high school, just 3% graduated on time.

Of course, all of these things cost money. And who’s willing to spend money these days on nonsense like this? Overseas wars and tax cuts for the rich are surely much better uses of our resources.

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We've never been very good at being conservative.

And usually, that serves us well in doing the ambitious, hard-hitting journalism that you turn to Mother Jones for. But it also means we can't afford to come up short when it comes to scratching together the funds it takes to keep our team firing on all cylinders, and the truth is, we finished our budgeting cycle on June 30 about $100,000 short of our online goal.

This is no time to come up short. It's time to fight like hell, as our namesake would tell us to do, for a democracy where minority rule cannot impose an extreme agenda, where facts matter, and where accountability has a chance at the polls and in the press. If you value our reporting and you can right now, please help us dig out of the $100,000 hole we're starting our new budgeting cycle in with an always-needed and always-appreciated donation today.

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