Although we often hold teachers and administrators responsible for the lack of student performance in the classroom, there is substantial evidence that an individual student’s success or failure may be determined long before they enter elementary school. As Nobel winning economist James Heckman recently wrote in the New York Times:
Everyone knows that education boosts productivity and enlarges opportunities, so it is natural that proposals for reducing inequality emphasize effective education for all. But these proposals are too timid. They ignore a powerful body of research in the economics of human development that tells us which skills matter for producing successful lives. They ignore the role of families in producing the relevant skills They also ignore or play down the critical gap in skills between advantaged and disadvantaged children that emerges long before they enter school.1
While we need to actively support our elementary, middle and high schools, we also need to continue to push for early childhood education programs that bridge the performance gap between advantaged and disadvantaged children, improves the overall performance of schools, and perhaps most importantly fosters greater social equality. I encourage everyone to read Heckman’s full New York Times piece.
James Heckman, New York Times 09/15/2013 ↩