Monday, October 8, 2012

Big effort to eliminate achievement gap in Twin Cities. Will it be successful in the long term? I doubt it.

In the Pioneer Press today there was front page story on efforts to eliminate the achievement gap between minority, inner city youths and the general population.  Will it be successful long term?  Based on the story, I doubt it.

The new initiative called Strive seeks to address the serious achievement gap  between minority, inner city kids and the general population.  According to the Pioneer Press news story:
Set to launch next month, the Strive initiative has brought together school districts, higher-education institutions, businesses and nonprofits -- getting them into the same room if not yet completely on the same page.

Supporters say the effort tackles the key reason the gap bedevils educators: piecemeal attempts to address it don't make the smartest use of ever-scarcer dollars and ever more plentiful data....

In the Twin Cities, the United Way has played host to an 18-month push to start the effort. Among organizations that have come on board: the teachers unions in Minneapolis and St. Paul; the mayors of both cities; education nonprofits; public and private colleges; foundations; the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce; and businesses such as 3M, Target and Cargill...

U President Eric Kaler and Kim Nelson, president of the General Mills Foundation, have co-chaired the effort. This week, Michael Goar, most recently the second-in-command at Boston Public Schools and a former Minneapolis administrator, starts as Strive executive director.
They're drawing their inspiration from Cincinnati "where it was born almost a decade ago. It was the answer to what supporters often call a 'spray and pray' take on lagging education achievement: Federal and private funding went to disparate initiatives instead of a better-coordinated 'cradle to career' approach."
Today, three school districts and some 300 nonprofits, foundations and universities are part of Strive in Cincinnati. They boast gains such as improved school readiness and fourth-grade reading test scores.

In the past couple of years, the Cincinnati model began migrating to cities from Seattle to Boston. Initiatives sprang up in Minnesota, too.
 This isn't the first initiative which seeks to close the achievement gap.  "A recent U study counted some 500 initiatives focused on closing achievement gaps in the Twin Cities."

Will this new initiative work?

I’m all for bringing together resources in the community to help people.  Not just government resources.  That’s a positive step, yet there’s one group that’s missing from the the equation and discussion, the most important group – parents.  Yes, parents who are supposed to be raising kids, instilling the character and skills necessary for their kids to succeed.

I suspect they’ve been omitted from the discussion because the reason many of these kids are having trouble is they don’t have parents actively involved in their lives.  They come from broken homes.

Yet that’s the problem – there’s no way to ultimately solve the achievement gap without parents being parents. In fact, seeking to replace parents with government programs and community initiatives will only mask over the core problem – broken homes -- and where the government is involved it deepens dependency.

An interesting study on the achievement gap came out a few years ago by a Professor Jeynes from California.  He wrote an article "Religion, Intact Families, and the Achievement Gap" Interdisciplinary Journal of Research on Religion in 2007.  He found that "One of the most notable findings that emerges from this study is that using the NELS dataset, when African American and Latino children who are religious and come from intact families are compared with white students, the achievement gap disappears."

Hear that?  Disappears.  Not reduced but disappears.  The two factors which eliminate the achievement gap are an intact family and strong religious influences in their lives.

Frankly, if we really want to solve the problem that’s where we need to look and work – restore the family and bring spiritual renewal to the lives of people.

Does the government and businesses have a role to play?  Certainly.  They just need to play their proper roles, not the main roles.

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