A cornerstone of the conventional wisdom is that All We Have to Do is to spend a lot more money cognitively stimulating poor black children pre-K and that will close The Gap.
But down through history, it’s been assumed that better teachers should work with higher, not lower potential students: Socrates taught Plato, Plato taught Aristotle, and so forth. Rather than pour extra resources into lower potential students, most cultures have allotted them to higher potential young people
So what if spending money on the conventional wisdom’s pre-K initiatives actually widens The Gap?
From the National Bureau of Economic Research:
Parental Incentives and Early Childhood Achievement: A Field Experiment in Chicago HeightsHere’s the full paper.
Roland G. Fryer, Jr., Steven D. Levitt, John A. List
NBER Working Paper No. 21477 Issued in August 2015
This article describes a randomized field experiment in which parents were provided financial incentives to engage in behaviors designed to increase early childhood cognitive and executive function skills through a parent academy. Parents were rewarded for attendance at early childhood sessions, completing homework assignments with their children, and for their child’s demonstration of mastery on interim assessments. This intervention had large and statistically significant positive impacts on both cognitive and non-cognitive test scores of Hispanics and Whites, but no impact on Blacks. These differential outcomes across races are not attributable to differences in observable characteristics (e.g. family size, mother’s age, mother’s education) or to the intensity of engagement with the program. Children with above median (pre-treatment) non cognitive scores accrue the most benefits from treatment.
For years I’ve argued that rather than obsess over boosting school achievement among blacks and Hispanics by roughly one standard deviations while not allowing whites and Asians to get better, we should try as a society to boost all groups by half a standard deviation.