In the US we have been fighting to close the achievement gap of children living in disadvantaged circumstances since Lyndon Johnson declared the War on Poverty 50 years ago. Efforts to close the gap have advanced from many angles – economic, housing, nutrition, crime prevention and education. Research on early intervention programs, such as the Perry Preschool and the Chicago Child-Parent Center, have proven the long-term benefits of comprehensive services to young children (birth to 5 years), their families and communities. Yet, we still haven’t solved the problem.
KIPS Blog: Parenting Assessment in Practice & Research
I am staggered by the weightiness of the topic of race, poverty and parenting, because its implications are incredibly important. I ask myself, ‘what lay at the heart of the matter of this conversation’? Does a propensity of research really prove that poor Black and Hispanic children experience double jeopardy because of poverty and low quality parenting. Or, is this an instance of the intersection of research and stereotypical life experiences of the poor and minority?
Fifty years ago this week in his State of the Union address, the New President, Lyndon Johnson declared War on Poverty. As I write this the press and politicians are abuzz debating “America’s Longest War.” We can all agree that this long war has not been won. For a timeline showing the many battles and skirmishes in this war on poverty follow this link.
I just read a remarkable report from the Brookings Institution written by Isabel V. Sawhill, Richard V. Reeves and Kimberly Howard entitled Parenting, Politics, and Social Mobility. This report courageously goes where I have feared to tread in these posts. In the KIPS Cradle blogs I have tried very hard to be apolitical, because children are too important to be used as political pawns. Being much braver, Sawhill and her colleagues charge directly into the center of the fray, striking blows to those of both the right and the left political viewpoints. They begin by reviewing the literature showing early parenting is a primary driver of children’s language and math achievement as they enter Kindergarten. We have similarly reviewed this literature (see 1,2,3 & 4). Admirably, they move beyond reviewing the overwhelming results cited in this report, and they bravely address the policy implications and the political issues of what they refer to as a parenting gap.
I just read a very exciting research paper, so excuse me if I gush some about the work of Helen Neville and colleagues from the University of Oregon. In their paper, Family-based training program improves brain function, cognition, and behavior in lower socioeconomic status preschoolers, (July 1, 2013, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences), they report results that have profound implications for closing the achievement gap of young children from low income families.