Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Closing the Achievement Gap

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Closing the Achievement Gap

Article excerpt

When poor children enter kindergarten, they are often at a tremendous disadvantage.

Although it's been only a few years since their birth, these children find themselves already behind their peers from more prosperous households on a wide variety of measures.

A school readiness survey from the Brookings Institution illustrates the problem.

The differences are apparent.

For 5-year-olds:

- Fewer than 50 percent from poor households are judged ready for kindergarten.

- 59 percent of the nearly poor are ready for kindergarten.

- 75 percent of children from families of moderate to high income are ready for kindergarten.

Further sifting of the data shows that not only do these poor children score lower than their peers on math and reading skills, they're also more likely to exhibit problem behaviors and have poorer physical health.

And children who start school poorly often end their school career poorly.

They likely won't be able to read as well by third grade as their peers. In turn, these poor third-grade readers are four times more likely to drop out of high school.

This isn't new research. Since the 1960s, studies have been showing similar results.

So what can be done to narrow these gaps caused by household income?

Brookings has suggestions:

- If income is so directly connected with school readiness, increasing a family's income should also increase readiness. One way to do this would be through a fairly modest rise in the Earned Income Tax Credit for these families.

- Another obvious way to ready a child for kindergarten is through enrollment in preschool. But those programs must be high quality, and that's where community support and oversight for preschool is essential.

- Have parents spend more time at home with their children. An obvious way to accomplish this is with paid parental leave, yet the United States had lagged far behind other developed nations in providing leave for parents.

- Provide parenting classes for mothers and fathers, so the time spent with their children successfully helps prepare those youngsters. …

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