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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THE TRUTH...

is the first thing despots go after. An unwavering commitment to it is probably what draws you to Mother Jones' journalism. And as we're seeing in the US and the world around, authoritarians seek to poison the discourse and the way we relate to each other because they can't stand people coming together around a shared sense of the truth—it's a huge threat to them.

Which is also a pretty great way to describe Mother Jones' mission: People coming together around the truth to hold power accountable.

And right now, we need to raise about $400,000 from our online readers over the next two months to hit our annual goal and make good on that mission. Read more about the information war we find ourselves in and how people-powered, independent reporting can and must rise to the challenge—and please support our team's truth-telling journalism with a donation if you can right now.

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