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Closing the Achievement Gap: Early Intervention and Technology

Categories: Learning Disabilities, Parenting

In Part Two of our series, Stewart J. Hudson, president of the Emily Hall Tremaine Foundation, explains how Tremaine's basic awareness campaign evolved into one seeking to place parents in a more proactive role regarding their children’s path to learning success. Following 10 years of driving what was essentially a PR campaign, Tremaine became aware of two emerging trends:
  • Response to intervention, an approach for providing services to kids who have dyslexia or other learning disabilities, which seeks to avoid or reduce the negative impact of a “wait to fail” regime that is particularly associated with IQ discrepancy tests. While not without imperfections, this approach doesn’t require labeling as the starting point for intervention.
  • A movement to provide universal access to high-quality pre-K in classrooms across America. This impressive trend was generated from state governments and the philanthropic community, which had, as its apostles, economists. In general terms, a dollar placed into high-quality pre-K saves society four to six dollars or more – suggesting a tremendous payback from investing in high-quality pre-K.
Stewart Hudson sat down with us to elaborate on what guided the Emily Hall Tremaine Foundation’s strategic direction: “In 2003, the Foundation refocused its efforts on the classroom, seeking to respond to the question, ‘What happens when you drive people to a system that’s broken?’ “Currently, to help prepare classrooms for all types of learners, the Foundation is focused on
  • Early Intervention: Recognition and Response (pre-K response to intervention), and
  • Technology and Teaching, including the use of digital media, a critical element of a larger movement known as universal design for learning. These programs don’t require labeling, yet do lead to intervention when a child shows signs of struggling with pre-literacy, pre-math, and the like.
  Too often, a kid’s educational success is determined by the ZIP code in which he or she lives.
“All of this comes at a unique time in American political history: continued Federal interest in education. Today, what I’m calling ‘Education Reform 3.0’ is focusing on the achievement gap in America – and how America stacks up to other industrialized countries. This has evolved considerably from ‘2.0’ (No Child Left Behind) and ‘1.0’ (the very beginnings of standard-setting, from the Clinton Administration in the early 1990s). “And yet, too often, a kid’s educational success is determined by the ZIP code in which he or she lives. According to a recent report provided by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, ‘The pool from which employers, colleges, and the military draw is too small, and still shrinking, because millions of American children get to fourth grade without learning to read proficiently – and that puts them on the dropout track . . . Every student who does not complete high school costs our society an estimated $260,000 in lost earnings, taxes, and productivity.[1]’ “Thankfully, several other organizations, such as the Education Equality Project, The Education Trust, and Democrats for Educational Reform, are also taking proactive steps to help close the achievement gap. “It’s important to understand that kids in a pre-K environment are not reading – they are learning to learn to read. Even at that stage, you can identify kids who seem like they need some additional help – and you don’t have to begin by labeling them as anything.”
 Backgrounder:  From “EARLY WARNING! Why Reading by the End of Third Grade Matters,” a KIDS COUNT Special Report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation Several troubling results emerged from the 2009 National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) reading test given to children at the beginning of fourth grade:
  • Eighty-three percent of children from low-income families – and 85 percent of those children who attend high-poverty schools – failed to reach the “proficient” achievement level, regardless of whether they attended school in a city, suburb, town, or rural area.
  • Forty-nine percent of low-income fourth grade test-takers – and 53 percent of those who attend high-poverty schools – didn’t reach the “basic” level, which indicates only partial mastery.
  • Disparities in reading achievement persist across racial and ethnic groups, with 89 percent of low-income black students scoring below proficient, compared to 76 percent of low-income white students.
  • Among other low-income students, 87 percent of Hispanics, 85 percent of Native Americans, and 70 percent of Asian/Pacific Islanders, scored below proficient.
(Next – Part III of III: What the Future Holds: Building Self-Advocacy through a Community-Based Movement)

- Andy O'Hearn 

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