This week, I felt like a boxer who was first hit hard with an upper-cut to the head, then sucker punched with a second to the gut. The first hit came from an article in the NY Times, titled "No Rich Child Left Behind." The article reported a number of research findings that dispelled common myths about education reform. The one that stood out most to me was this; "It may seem counter-intuitive, but schools don't seem to produce much of the disparity in test scores between high and low-income students. We know this because children from rich and poor families score very differently on school readiness tests when they enter kindergarten, and this gap grows by less than 10% between kindergarten and high school....the academic gap is widening because rich students are increasingly entering kindergarten much better prepared to succeed in school than middle-class students."
Reading on, it was clear that the leverage point in education, the place we could score the most in reducing the widening gap between rich and poor is investing in child care and preschool. Clear enough.
Until I picked up the Seattle Times and read this; "Per Pupil Spending on Pre-K Lowest in Decade." Don't get me wrong, there is a lot we could do to improve education all along the line, birth through completion of college. And we should. It's why organizations like the Road Map Project and Powerful Schools-two organizations I have worked closely with-are so important. But we need to be smart about where we invest the most time, the most money and the most effort. Or else we all will keep getting sucker punched year after year after year.
Greg Tuke teaches and travels internationally, working with university faculty in India, Indonesia and the MIddle East, sharing strategies for implementing international collaborations within course work. This blog chronicles key experiences and insights about those experiences. All opinions expressed are mine, and represent no other institutional affiliation.