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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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Are Early Interventions the Key to Ending the Black Male Education Crisis?

Scholars say we need to focus intervention efforts for black boys on pre-K through third grade, but the methods raise plenty of questions.

With only eight percent of black male eighth graders enrolled in schools in urban areas scoring "proficient" on reading tests, and only 10 percent scoring "proficient" in math, intervention programs usually focus on boosting black male middle and high school results and improving high school graduation rates. However, a solution to the black male education crisis offered at a recent symposium held by the Education Testing Service and the Children's Defense Fund suggests a different approach: Reaching young black males when they're much younger—between pre-K and third grade.

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Should Schools Hold Back Struggling Readers Based on a Single Standardized Test?

Under a new plan in Indiana, third graders who fail a reading test will be held back. But there aren't any new resources to actually teach them.


Is holding students back based on their performance on a single standardized test the way to help struggling readers? The Indiana State Board of Education certainly thinks so. They've approved a new plan that mandates that third graders will have to pass a new statewide reading test before they can advance to fourth grade. And, according to the plan, students who've been retained once could potentially be held back a second time if they fail the test again.

The number of Indiana students that could potentially be retained based on the test results is staggering. Every year almost 33 percent of the state's third graders currently fail the reading portion of the ISTEP, the statewide proficiency exam. Although a new reading test is being designed to specifically measure third grade reading proficiency, if its results have any correlation to the ISTEP, Indiana's third grade classrooms are destined for overcrowding.

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