There are significant barriers to economic opportunity for poor children in America. The nation’s 21st Century economy rewards those with skills and knowledge. The income of workers with no more than a high school degree has stagnated for several decades, and the income of high school dropouts has declined. A major path to increased economic mobility would be to increase the educational attainment and the literacy and numeracy skills of poor and minority children. Greg J. Duncan and Richard J. Murnane, who have been directing a sweeping five-year project on opportunity, have just released a book (restoringopportunity.com), published by Harvard Education Press and the Russell Sage Foundation, intended for a general audience, that provides extensive information about how to improve schools so that students from poor families can boost their learning and increase their chances of going to college or attaining vocational skills.
The event featured presentations by Duncan and Murnane that highlight school-based interventions conducted at some scale that have been shown, in high-quality evaluations, to improve educational outcomes for low-income children. The presentations featured brief videos describing two of these successful initiatives, a preschool program involving 70 schools, and a high school initiative involving 200 schools. The videos bring to life a central message of the book, namely, that effective schooling for low-income children requires the combination of consistently strong school supports and sensible accountability. Duncan and Murnane’s presentations were followed by comments from a panel of education experts and policymakers.
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