[Pre-school education creates a gap between rich and poor children from which the latter cannot recover]
Limos and nannies drop off 3- and 4-year-olds every weekday morning at New York City’s most exclusive preschools. Tuition is more than $30,000 a year. The schools boast that young kids learn French, Chinese, violin, yoga and robotics — all before kindergarten.
Just a few subway stops away in the Bronx, home to one of America’s poorest congressional districts, there’s a very different morning drop-off routine going on. Many working parents leave their children with a relative or at the home of a lady down the street. They can’t afford formal preschool or day care, which now averages almost $10,000 a year, according to the Care Index.
Inequality in America is apparent by age 3: Most rich kids are in school, while most poor kids are not, according to a new book, “Cradle to Kindergarten: A New Plan to Combat Inequality.”
Only 55 percent of America’s 3 and 4-year-olds attend a formal preschool, a rate far below China, Germany and other power players on the global stage.
It’s a problem for the kids left behind — and for the U.S. economy. Companies are already complaining they can’t find enough skilled workers. It’s only expected to get worse if the United States doesn’t do a better job educating its youth.
“Early care and education in the United States is in a crisis,” education scholars Ajay Chaudry, Taryn Morrissey, Christina Weiland and Hirokazu Yoshikawa conclude in the book.
Parents who can’t afford preschool typically leave their kids with a grandparent or someone nearby. Some of these informal child-care providers do offer rigorous educational activities, but others just leave kids in front of the television. The quality is more haphazard, and there’s a higher risk the option won’t work out. The book chronicles the awful experience of one low-income family in New York City that had to make 25 different child-care arrangements for their daughter by her fifth birthday.
The inequality that begins before kindergarten lasts a lifetime. Children who don’t get formal schooling until kindergarten start off a year behind in math and verbal skills and they never catch up, according to the authors, who cite a growing body of research that’s been following children since the 1940s. In fact, the gap between rich and poor kids’ math and reading skills has been growing since the 1970s. The “left behind” kids are also more likely to end up in lower-paying jobs.
“The earliest years are the most promising for brain and skill development, yet it is when the U.S. invests the least,” says Yoshikawa, an education professor at New York University.
https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2017/09/26/by-age-3-inequality-is-clear-rich-kids-attend-school-poor-kids-stay-with-a-grandparent/ (emphasis added)
[Cognitive exposure and growth leads to larger brain in rich children]
Social scientists have found that by the time children enter kindergarten, there is already a large academic achievement gap between students from wealthy and poor families. We still don’t know exactly why that’s the case. There’s a sense that it at least partly has to do with the fact that affluent mothers and fathers have more intensive parenting styles—they’re more likely to read to their kids, for instance—and have enough money to make sure their toddlers grow up well-nourished, generally cared for, and intellectually stimulated. At the same time, poor children often grow up in chaotic, food-insecure, stressful homes that aren’t conducive to a developing mind.
A new study in the journal Nature Neuroscience adds an interesting biological twist to this issue. Using MRI scans of more than 1,000 subjects between the ages of 3 and 20, it finds that children with poor parents tend to have somewhat smaller brains, on some dimensions, than those who grow up affluent. Specifically, low-income participants had less surface area on their cerebral cortexes—the gray matter responsible for skills such as language, problem solving, and other higher-order functions we generally just think of as human intelligence. Poorer individuals in the study also fared worse on a battery of cognitive tests, and a statistical analysis suggested the disparities were related to brain dimensions.
http://www.slate.com/blogs/moneybox/2015/04/17/family_income_and_brain_development_poor_children_have_less_surface_area.html (emphasis added)
[Good teachers out-teach bad teachers by as much as a year’s worth of material in one year]
One of the most important tools in contemporary educational research is “value added” analysis. It uses standardized test scores to look at how much the academic performance of students in a given teacher’s classroom changes between the beginning and the end of the school year. Suppose that Mrs. Brown and Mr. Smith both teach a classroom of third graders who score at the fiftieth percentile on math and reading tests on the first day of school, in September. When the students are retested, in June, Mrs. Brown’s class scores at the seventieth percentile, while Mr. Smith’s students have fallen to the fortieth percentile. That change in the students’ rankings, value-added theory says, is a meaningful indicator of how much more effective Mrs. Brown is as a teacher than Mr. Smith.
It’s only a crude measure, of course. A teacher is not solely responsible for how much is learned in a classroom, and not everything of value that a teacher imparts to his or her students can be captured on a standardized test. Nonetheless, if you follow Brown and Smith for three or four years, their effect on their students’ test scores starts to become predictable: with enough data, it is possible to identify who the very good teachers are and who the very poor teachers are. What’s more—and this is the finding that has galvanized the educational world—the difference between good teachers and poor teachers turns out to be vast.
Eric Hanushek, an economist at Stanford, estimates that the students of a very bad teacher will learn, on average, half a year’s worth of material in one school year. The students in the class of a very good teacher will learn a year and a half’s worth of material. That difference amounts to a year’s worth of learning in a single year. Teacher effects dwarf school effects: your child is actually better off in a “bad” school with an excellent teacher than in an excellent school with a bad teacher. Teacher effects are also much stronger than class-size effects. You’d have to cut the average class almost in half to get the same boost that you’d get if you switched from an average teacher to a teacher in the eighty-fifth percentile. And remember that a good teacher costs as much as an average one, whereas halving class size would require that you build twice as many classrooms and hire twice as many teachers.
https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2008/12/15/most-likely-to-succeed-malcolm-gladwell (emphasis added)
[Disadvantages faced by poor children hold them back]
Education is historically considered to be the thing that levels the playing field, capable of lifting up the less advantaged and improving their chances for success….
But a study published in June suggests that the things that really make the difference — between prison and college, success and failure, sometimes even life and death — are money and family.
Alexander is one of the authors of “The Long Shadow,” which explored this scenario: Take two kids of the same age who grew up in the same city — maybe even the same neighborhood. What factors will make the difference for each?
To find the answer, the Hopkins researchers undertook a massive study. They followed nearly 800 kids in Baltimore — from first grade until their late-20s.
They found that a child’s fate is in many ways fixed at birth — determined by family strength and the parents’ financial status.
The kids who got a better start — because their parents were married and working — ended up better off. Most of the poor kids from single-parent families stayed poor.
Just 33 children — out of nearly 800 — moved from the low-income to high-income bracket. And a similarly small number born into low-income families had college degrees by the time they turned 28.
https://www.npr.org/sections/ed/2014/08/07/335285098/rich-kid-poor-kid-for-30-years-baltimore-study-tracked-who-gets-ahead (emphasis added)
My dearest Shosh and Jaialai:
We last spoke of striving to be extraordinary — to make a difference — even the mundane. Too many people oday simply care about nothing but themselves, their comfort, their entertainment, etc. Be not like them. Give a shit. Help others. Matter.
Today, let’s talk how best to position yourself so that you can maximize your efforts. It doesn’t matter if you ultimately choose to devote yourselves to serving others one-on-one (retail) or as a group (wholesale). The point is (1) to do something to help your world be a better place, and (2) to maximize your efforts.
(These points should be self-evident. However, to make these points crystal clear, let me state them in the negative. First, why wouldn’t you want to make your world a better place? The state of nature leans towards disorder and decay. For example, unless you mow your lawn, it would soon become a weed-filled jungle. Unless you make efforts to clean up after yourselves, your neighborhoods, streets, and parks will be filled with trash and broken bottles. Is that how you wish to live? I assume not. Second, why wouldn’t you want your efforts to be as effective and as efficient as possible? If you’re going to spend the time and energy to do something, why would you not want to do your best to maximize the use of your time and energy to bring about the best outcome possible under the circumstances? Only fools would wish otherwise.)
So, how do you best position yourself for success? As evident from the above-referenced articles, numerous studies have shown the important roles family background and education play in preparing children for success. Rich families, or those from families with means, expose their children at a VERY young age to music, art, vocabulary, information, and social and cultural experiences that help develop their young brains and give them a significant leg up on the road to success. Poor children, or those from families with few means, are unable to provide give their children such opportunities.
This has devastating consequences which make it harder for children from poor families to succeed in life. For example, children from poor or disadvantaged families have smaller brains than their affluent counterpart (see, e.g., http://www.slate.com/blogs/moneybox/2015/04/17/family_income_and_brain_development_poor_children_have_less_surface_area.html), have poorer vocabularies than their affluent counterparts (see e.g., https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-athletes-way/201402/tackling-the-vocabulary-gap-between-rich-and-poor-children), and are much less likely to join the ranks of the affluent (see, e.g., https://www.npr.org/sections/ed/2014/08/07/335285098/rich-kid-poor-kid-for-30-years-baltimore-study-tracked-who-gets-ahead).
While we were together, I have tried to expose you to as many diverse as well as culturally, socially, and academically meaningful experiences as possible. We traveled far and wide. We hiked and camped. We attended musical events and theaters. I paid nearly $1,000 per month for you, Jaialai, to attend an elite preschool where you were exposed to music and the arts as part of he curriculum. Likewise, Shosh, I enrolled you in a private and well-regarded preschool program that required the parents (most of whom were doctors and lawyers) to volunteer and help out at least once every month. Because of the adverse impact the death of your grandmother, who lived with us, and my divorce from your mother, I paid out of pocket for child therapy for you boys for more than a year so that these unfortunate events would not unduly encumber your growth and future. (N.B.: despite my paying thousands of dollars out of pocket for your years-long therapy, your mother refused to pay $60 to meet with your child therapist to discuss how best to help you through the difficult circumstances — she claimed she had no money, yet bank records from the divorce showed she spent more than $900 a month on Starbucks coffee and eating out. I met with your therapist weekly. Your mother met with her only once.) I wanted to give you a leg up in life, and made the necessary sacrifices to do so.
Unfortunately, fascist thugs interfered and have denied you the road I had planned for you. But, all is not lost. You have had the necessary head start during the developmental years. Now, it is up to you to pursue that path while we’re apart.
Work hard to be accepted into magnet programs and accelerated classes in middle and high schools and to gain admission to top colleges so that you’d be surrounded by good teachers and good students. As evident from the article above, good teachers are significantly more effective at expanding your minds and helping you learn. Being around good students and students from good families establishes good behaviors and hard work as the norm. You would then conform your behaviors to such norms and behave well, work hard, etc., as a result. On the flip side, if you were surrounded by kids who aspire for mediocrity — or worse — that would be the new norm and you would race towards the bottom in your efforts to gain acceptance. (Your cousin on your mother-side has a felony conviction because he hung out with the bad crowd while studying at a mediocre school. On the other hand, your cousins on my side attends, or have attended, good schools, and those that have graduated have successful careers.)
Be self-disciplined. Do your best always. Don’t turn in shit-work. If it’s worth doing, it is worth doing well. I have seen too many wasted lives and lost opportunities simply because the people were unwilling to work hard. Be not like them.
All my love, always,