Oh When Will We Ever Learn?
Blank slate: someone or something that is still in an original state and that has not yet been changed by people, experiences, etc. Dictionary
When a child enters first grade, he/she is not a blank slate. Some children have already had lots of preparation for learning experiences; some children have had little, some none. This fact is so obvious that it is hard to understand how or why so many can overlook it or don’t believe it — including several U S Presidents and Secretary’s of Education, as well as Congress. Teachers are continuously given sole responsibility for the educational success of all school students. It has been known forever that students of affluent, well-educated parents who speak English are most successful.
Although I have unsuccessfully written about this lack of understanding of the inequality of student success, I was encouraged to write this blog because of an article in the Nov./Dec. 2016 Stanford Magazine: “The Gravity of Inequality”, by Sam Scott. The article is about the educational research by Sean Reardon over many years. His research should become well known. Following are some of his insights.
- Affluent students have always done better than poor students. This difference has grown bigger by 40%
- Test results and socioeconomic status move in virtual lockstep.
- The affluent give their young children a running start.
- Parents are now investing more time and money in their children’s cognitive development from the earliest ages.
There is gradual improvement in school readiness
- Low income kindergarteners are entering school with stronger “school readiness” scores.
- There is now better access to public preschool.
- A growing awareness of early childhood as crucial period of cognitive development.
- Although improvement continues, it would take another 60 to 110 years to fully close the school readiness gap.
Parenting alone isn’t enough to overcome inequality. What is needed are they things that happen in schools. And things that happen in families. And things that happen in the neighborhoods. And things that happen in politics. I am not optimistic, especially after this election.
What needs to happen first is in the minds of the people we elect. Now we have another Secretary of Education and more in congress who just don’t get it. How long will it take them to recognize the importance of preschool learning experiences? Oh when will they ever learn? There is no blank slate in school children.