ScienceMasterIf it's your job to develop the mind,
shouldn't you know how the brain works?
The Achievement Gap?
- Written by Kenneth Wesson Kenneth Wesson
- Published: 11 April 2009 11 April 2009
Where should our nation's focus be -- on the causes or the effects?
Many of the problems directly associated with poverty make significant contributions to the so-called "Achievement Gap," which does exist. However, it will not be reduced or eliminated by the simplistic solutions being currently advocated -- more high-stakes testing, punishing each teacher for her students’ test performances, firing the principal, linking teachers' salaries to test results, etc. -- rather than attempting to address the well known economic factors that have been widely acknowledged for their impact on learning and development, as well as skewing these standardized test results.
Pay scales for educators, like other occupations, reward teachers based on (1) earned degrees, and (2) job experience. A suburban high school, where 80 highly qualified and experienced teachers are paid an average of $1,000 more per month than their inner-city colleagues, invests in excess of $1 million dollars more per year in salaries and benefits for those educators. Yes, that massive investment difference helps in yielding an expected return annually. What we find most amazing is that the "achievement gap" isn’t considerably wider! Factors that can lead to cognitive deficits and mild to profound brain damage include the following:
• inadequate prenatal care
• prenatal substance exposure
• poor perinatal nutrition
• smoking during pregnancy
• second-hand smoke
• lead poisoning from lead pipes and lead-based paints
• premature births
• babies with low birth weights
• excessive TV exposure
• insufficient childhood nutrition
• poorly educated parents
• few books at home
• parents who do not read to their children
• de facto segregated schools
• little access to learning enrichment opportunities during the summer months
• low percentage of two-parent households
• recurrent ear infections
• changing schools more frequently
• high absentee rates in school attendance
• high rates of asthma (from buses and diesel trucks)
These are all in addition to
• a pediatric healthcare gap
• a dental care gap
• a vision care gap
• a teacher-experience and credentials gap
• a parental participation in school/homework gap
• a rigor in the classroom content gap
• a teacher absenteeism and turnover gap
• a class-size gap
• a classroom/school/home/community technology gap
• a fear for one’s safety gap
• an AP courses available gap
• a societal expectation of academic failure gap (which often leads to a self-fulfilling prophecy)
Here are just a few examples:
Preemies Born In Poverty Four Times Less Likely Ready For School
(July 20, 2009) — Advances in neonatal care enable two-thirds of premature babies born with respiratory problems to be ready for school at an appropriate age, but those living in poverty are far less likely to be ready on time than their better-off peers, researchers from the University of Chicago Medical Center report in the July issue of the journal Pediatrics.
Family Wealth May Explain Differences In Test Scores In School-Age Children
ScienceDaily (Mar. 26, 2008) — A new study published in the March/April 2008 issue of the journal Child Development finds that family wealth might partly explain differences in test scores in school-age children. The study, conducted by researchers at New York University, also found that family wealth is positively associated with parenting behavior, home environment, and children's self-esteem. Prior research has documented the association between children's cognitive achievement and the socioeconomic status of their parents as measured by education level, occupation, and income. Many of these studies focused on the effect of poverty--defined by family income--on children's achievement, but household wealth (i.e., net worth) has received little attention.
Report finds poor and minority students have least access to best teachers
It’s not news that poor and minority children are more likely to be taught by the least-qualified teachers. And it’s not a breakthrough to find correlations between teacher quality and student achievement. In brief, research shows that good teachers make the biggest difference in student learning and that non-white and poor students—who are more likely to arrive at school less prepared for learning than more affluent children—have the least access to the best teachers.
Smoking During Pregnancy Can Increase Risk Of ADHD In Child(May 24, 2007) — Women smokers who become pregnant have long been encouraged to reduce or eliminate their nicotine intake. A new study provides further reason to do so, as it presents new evidence that in utero exposure to smoking is associated with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) problems in genetically susceptible children.
Over Half Of Kids Born Very Early Need Extra Help At Mainstream Schools(Mar. 14, 2009) — Children born extremely prematurely are at high risk of developing learning difficulties by the time they reach the age of 11. A new study carried out by the University of Warwick showed almost two thirds of children born extremely prematurely require additional support at school.
Preterm Births Higher Among Deprived Mothers, Despite Equal Care(Dec. 2, 2009) — Despite improvements in obstetric care services, women from deprived areas are still more likely to give birth to a very preterm baby compared with mothers from more affluent areas, finds a study published on the British Medical Journal website.
Preemies Born In Poverty Four Times Less Likely Ready For School(July 20, 2009) — Advances in neonatal care enable two-thirds of premature babies born with respiratory problems to be ready for school at an appropriate age, but those living in poverty are far less likely to be ready on time than their better-off peers, researchers from the University of Chicago Medical Center report in the July issue of the journal Pediatrics.
Children Better Prepared For School If Their Parents Read Aloud To Them(May 12, 2008) — Young children whose parents read aloud to them have better language and literacy skills when they go to school, according to a new review published online ahead of print in the Archives of Disease in Childhood.
Disadvantaged Neighborhoods Set Children's Reading Skills on Negative Course
ScienceDaily (Jan. 17, 2010)
— A landmark study from the University of British Columbia finds that the neighborhoods in which children reside at kindergarten predict their reading comprehension skills seven years later. The study, published this week in the journal Health & Place, finds children who live in neighborhoods with higher rates of poverty show reduced scores on standardized tests seven years later -- regardless of the child's place of residence in Grade 7. The study is the first of its kind to compare the relative effects of neighborhood poverty at early childhood and early adolescence
Racial Segregation A Strong Factor In Learning Disparities, Study Finds
ScienceDaily (Oct. 2, 2009) — Racial segregation in the schools is fueling the learning disparity between young black and white children, while out-of-school factors are more important to the growth of social class gaps, according to a study by Emory University sociologist Dennis Condron. His findings were published in the October issue of the American Sociological Review. Condron was perplexed by prior research showing that schools narrow the achievement gap among students of varying social classes while widening the gap between black and white students. To tease out possible reasons for this difference, he analyzed data from the Kindergarten Cohort of the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study.