Changing the Odds for Children at Risk: Seven Essential Principles of Educational Programs That Break the Cycle of Poverty

Changing the Odds for Children at Risk: Seven Essential Principles of Educational Programs That Break the Cycle of Poverty

Changing the Odds for Children at Risk: Seven Essential Principles of Educational Programs That Break the Cycle of Poverty

Changing the Odds for Children at Risk: Seven Essential Principles of Educational Programs That Break the Cycle of Poverty

Synopsis

Schools, today, are in the midst of the most major, costly educational reform movement in their history as they grapple with the federal mandates to leave no children behind, says author Susan B. Neuman, former Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education under President George W. Bush. Although some efforts for investing resources will be substantially more productive than others, there is little evidence that, despite many heroic attempts to beat the odds, any of these efforts will close more than a fraction of the differences in achievement for poor minority children and their middleclass peers. As Neuman explains in this insightful, revealing book, schools will fail, not due to the "soft bigotry of low expectations," but because there are multitudes of children growing up in circumstances that make them highly vulnerable. Children who come to school from dramatically unequal circumstances leave school with similarly unequal skills and abilities. In these pages, however, Neuman shows how the odds can be changed, how we can break the cycle of poverty and disadvantage for children at risk After laying the critical groundwork for the need for change--excessive waste with little effect--this book provides a vivid portrait of changing the odds for high-poverty children. Describing how previous reforms have missed the mark, it offers a framework based on seven essential principles for implementing more effective programs and policies.

Excerpt

America’s poor children do not fare well in our society. The odds are if a child is born poor, he’s likely to stay poor. He’ll probably live in an unsafe neighborhood, landscaped with little hope, more neighborhood bars by corners than quality day care or after school programs. As he makes his way up through the local school system, he’ll likely find his schools dilapidated, playgrounds distant memories where equipment once laid, teachers, though earnest, ready to throw in the towel. Being the have-not among the haves, he’ll find that his skills are hopelessly behind his peers, only to drop further as academic demands get higher, his options increasingly narrowed to either staying behind, giving up, or dropping out. And perhaps, the most tragic element of it all is that this cycle of disadvantage is likely to repeat itself over and over again, until we are determined to do something about it.

Of course, it’s not as though we haven’t tried. Schools today are in the midst of the biggest educational reform movement in their history, grappling with federal mandates to leave no child behind. Redefining the federal government’s role in education, the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 consumes over 400 billion dollars of federal and state monies yearly. But although some efforts for investing resources will be substantially more productive than others, there is little evidence that any of these efforts will close more than a fraction of the differences in achievement for poor minority children in comparison to the achievement of their middle-class peers. Despite the many heroic attempts to beat the odds, these school reforms, like so many other reforms before them, will fail to close the achievement gap.

Schools will not fail for lack of resources, good teachers, high expectations, or rigorous standards. In general, America’s schools spend more per student and have higher-quality teachers and standards than do virtually any of the countries . . .

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