The Brookings Institution and the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University today announced the publication of the first volume of the Future of Children journal.
The volume, School Readiness: Closing Racial and Ethnic Gaps, focuses on children's lives before they get to kindergarten in an effort to understand how to close the racial and ethnic gaps in school achievement.
Although racial and ethnic gaps in achievement have narrowed over the past thirty years, test score disparities among students in the United States remain significant.
To date, policymakers and practitioners have focused most of their attention on the gaps in achievement among school-aged children. However, sizable racial and ethnic gaps already exist by the time children enter kindergarten, as shown in the journal. Research suggests that what happens to children early in life has a significant impact on their later achievement.
The volume's eight chapters, authored by leading scholars, address the size of the gap, examine possible explanations for differences in school readiness, and identify policies that hold promise for closing the gap and improving outcomes for children.
Some strategies for closing the gaps that might seem obvious turn out to be less promising than expected. For example, while programs that increase the socioeconomic status of families could make a modest impact on racial gaps, approaches that directly address the child and parental behaviors that contribute to school readiness are likely to prove more effective.
"The best thing that Congress could do is to increase access and improve the quality of preschool education programs for low-income three and four-year-olds," said Cecilia Rouse of Princeton University, director of the Education Research Section at the Woodrow Wilson School, and the editor for this volume of the journal.
In addition to Dr. Rouse, this issue is edited by Professor Jeanne Brooks-Gunn, director of the Center for Children and Families at Columbia University; and Professor Sara McLanahan, director of the Bendheim-Thoman Center for Research on Child Wellbeing at the Woodrow Wilson School.
Members of the journal's editorial board include McLanahan and Rouse; Isabel Sawhill and Ron Haskins, who co-direct the Initiative on Children and Families at Brookings; and Princeton Professor Christina Paxson, director of the Center for Health and Wellbeing at the Woodrow Wilson School. McLanahan is the journal's editor-in-chief.
The Future of Children collaboration will involve not only the journal, but briefings in Washington for Congress, the press, and the public; and conferences in Princeton targeted toward practitioners and state and local-level policymakers. A practitioners' conference will take place at Princeton on March 11, and a briefing on the school readiness gap will take place at the Brookings Institution on March 15.
Forthcoming volumes of the journal will each cover a single issue relating to children, including marriage and family formation, obesity, and social mobility.
For more information, please visit the project website at www.futureofchildren.org.