Sunday, September 07, 2008

Education of underprivileged children requires a lot more than academics


Paul Tough has an interesting education article in “The Way We Live Now” series in The New York Times Magazine today, Sept. 7, on p 17. It is called “24/7 School Reform: What kids really need can’t be taught in the classroom,” link here.

The underlying idea is that younger underprivileged children need continuous mentoring outside the home in all life skills, not just academic. Poor children grow into poor adults, he says, because they don’t develop the cognitive skills (reading and math) and self-control skills (delayed gratification and planning) necessary to “compete” in the kind of world we have today. They may have done better in earlier generations. The change in the world (personal competition at a global world) around them explains the rise in increasingly brazen crime among some youth in this population.

Tough mentions at least three specific authorites. First, he discusses James J. Heckman, a sometimes Obama adviser from the University of Chicago, and Heckman is particularly a proponent of the theory about skills and individual competition. Susan Neuman, who has served in the Bush administration (with "No Child Left Behind"), has published a book “Changing the Odds for Children at Risk”. Amazon shows a related book “Educating the Other America: Top Experts Tackle Poverty, Literacy and Achievement in our Schools,” and Amazon shows some earlier related listings. She considers programs like Nurse-Family partnerships and Early Head Start, and focus on the families that need support. Geoffrey Canada (in the spirit of Obama’s “community organizing” perhaps) has created the Harlem Children’s Zone, integrating all these services.

The overall impression of this focus is that in the future jobs in education may place much more emphasis on skills that themselves require familial socialization as well as academics. Some people may want to teach math (at least at more advanced grades) but not deal with the marriages of parents of students who are performing poorly.

It would be interesting to compare all of this to the operations of Kipp Schools. Or perhaps this reminds us of Hillary Clinton's "It Takes a Village."

Update: Sept 8

Bill Turque has a story on p B1, Metro, of The Washington Post, "Rhee's 'Plan B' Targets Teacher Quality: Strategy Might Include New Evaluation Process, Linking Licenses to Classroom Performance," in which the licensure of certain teachers could be tied to student performance, link here. Michelle A/ Rhee is the "controversial" chancellor of the Washington DC school system.

Rob Stein has a "Science" (a Monday morning Washington Post feature on p A6) piece "Science: Innate Sense of Numbers" about a visual test about the child's ability guess the "numerosity" of objects on a computer screen. The Q&A link is here.

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