A major milestone has been reached in public education. Most public school students come from a minority group. According to projections from the National Center for Education Statistics, 49.7% of students entering public schools are white, compared with 50.3% of students who are children of color. By 2022, the percentage of white students is projected to fall to 45%.
Despite unprecedented efforts in the last decade to improve minority school achievement, the gap between black and white students remains wide, according to the U.S. Department of Education and other reports. The gap is persistent and continues beyond high school.
There have been many media reports about Common Core changes and their impact on local school districts and students, but not much about the role of families in helping their children learn before they ever set foot in a school.
In 2008, my company, Educational Testing Service, a leading nonprofit research and assessment organization, developed a hallmark report: America’s Perfect Storm. It identified three trends that if left unaddressed will imperil our democracy: insufficient numbers of skilled workers, sweeping demographic changes, and a restructured economy. The report can be accessed here: http://www.ets.org/perfect_storm/.
In early 2016, we will release another report, Opportunity in America, whose goal is not only to illuminate these problems, but lead to a national conversation about solutions. We hope that the report will positively influence public policy. As we wait for policy leaders to make changes, what can we do right now—today—to make a difference in our children’s lives and to ensure that they receive the education they deserve, not only for them, but for our nation?
Ronald Ferguson, Ph.D, a senior lecturer in education and public policy with a joint appointment to the Harvard Graduate School of Education and the Harvard Kennedy School, recently spoke at ETS about the Harvard University achievement gap initiative and the need to make life at home an important part of the strategy to improve educational outcomes.
An ETS report published in 2008, The Family: America’s Smallest School, notes that learning begins at home. The conclusion is inescapable: Parents must create a home environment that is conducive to learning.
Research shows that parental engagement in a child’s Pre-K years is essential to a strong start in school. There is no doubt that parents with a lot of monetary resources have a leg up on parents of modest means, especially those living in poverty, but that does not mean the average family should give up.
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