I know the new school board members are busy with their duties, but I hope their extra-curricular reading has included some studies on the effect year-round schools have on the achievement gap. For all that they seem to find unworthy in the Wake County School System, they’re poised to mess with one thing that might substantially improve our schools. I know they defend their potential meddling by saying they’ll be doing what parents want, but their job is to run the system for the benefit of the county. That doesn’t just include parents of current elementary and middle-schoolers, who are the only ones receiving the year-round surveys. We would all benefit from narrowing, if not closing, the achievement gap.
How, Andrea? I’m glad you asked. We have to look first at what the achievement gap really is. Is it a problem with the way schools educate poor and minority children? No. Is it a problem with their ability to learn, with their inherent IQs? No. The problem is too little school for some, or, more specifically, too much summer. This Johns Hopkins study is a great example of the kind of results others have found when studying the achievement gap. Basically, it – and many others – show that kids gain pretty much equally through the school year. However, low socioeconomic status kids do not gain at anywhere near their peers’ rates over the summer.
It is well established that there are vast differences
across social lines in preschool children’s out-of-school learning environments … [W]e see that summer learning differences after children start school follow a like pattern, but what might not have been expected is the extent to which the continuing press of school-age children’s family and neighborhood environments contributes to the year 9 achievement differential between high and low SES youth: summer shortfall over the five years of elementary school accounts for more than half the difference, a larger component than that built up over the preschool years.8 And too, these learning differences from the early years that present themselves in 9th grade reverberate to constrain later high school curriculum placements, high school dropout, and college attendance. This lasting legacy of early experience typically is hidden from view.”
I know Ron Margiotta and his crew are Called2Action, I just hope they’re called to action by known facts, not just by opinions of the few. We all benefit from an excellent school system, and there is room for improvement in Wake County. But dismantling the magnet system, ending an exemplary commitment to diversity, and moving backwards on year-round schools is not the right direction. The rights of the many must outweigh the desires of the few.