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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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The Week That Was: GOOD Education

We held an event to discuss high expectations in school, asked if our schools were really that bad, and reviewed Waiting for Superman.

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