Closing the Achievement Gap

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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