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Is the White House Committed to Addressing the Role Poverty Plays in the Achievement Gap?

The Department of Education is allocating more money to the Promise Neighborhoods program. Is it enough to make a real difference?


More money is coming to the U.S. Department of Education's year-old Promise Neighborhoods program. Modeled after Geoffrey Canada's successful Harlem Children's Zone (HCZ) initiative, the Promise Neighborhoods program awarded $10 million in 2010 to 21 mostly nonprofit and higher education-based applicants. That money funded the planning stage of comprehensive, cradle-through-college-to-career wraparound services with great schools at the center. Now, starting today, the USDOE is launching a second phase of the program and will provide $30 million to a new round of grant applicants and fund the implementation of 4-6 existing projects.

But given that 20 percent of American students live in poverty, will this limited amount of money scale up the interventions fast enough to make a difference for kids?

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The Coming Paradigm Shift in Education Reform

Instead of ignoring the role poverty plays in hindering student achievement, the next wave of reformers might tackle it head on.

If you hang out with people in the education world long enough you'll quickly find that bringing up the connection between poverty and poor student achievement can start a heated debate. While researchers, wonks, and politicians tacitly acknowledge the effect of poverty on students, the reform conversation usually focuses on school-centered solutions—modifying teacher tenure or creating common education standards, for example. But a national working group, the “Futures of School Reform,” a three-year-old collaboration of 20 prominent education experts brought together by Harvard's School of Education, says the era of reformers discounting poverty could be coming to an close.

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Education Reformers Make the Grade in TIME's Annual List of Influential People

Michelle Rhee and Geoffrey Canada make this year's list of movers and shakers.

TIME's annual list of the most influential people in the world, the "TIME 100" is out, and two of the most famous education reformers in the nation—former Washington D.C. schools chancellor and founder of the advocacy group StudentsFirst, Michelle Rhee, and her "Waiting for 'Superman'" co-star, Harlem Children's Zone founder, Geoffrey Canada—made the cut.

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Q&A: Diane Ravitch Skewers Every Education Reform Sacred Cow (PART ONE)

In part one of a two-part conversation, Diane Ravitch upends many commonly held assumptions about education reform.

Education expert, author, and NYU professor Diane Ravitch believes that students' lives encapsulate more than their test scores. Her bestselling book, The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education, positions Ravitch as one of the most outspoken critics of the current wave of education reformers. What's most interesting to note is that her current viewpoints are a sharp departure from the beliefs she held in the 1990s, when serving as assistant secretary of education under both President George H. W. Bush and President Bill Clinton. Ravitch shared with us her recipe for improving academic achievement in our nation's schools.

Please note: This is the first of a two-part series.

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