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The 3 Most Important Educational Reformers

America’s standing tradition of separating school and not-school is about to change. These three advocates of countering the effects of poverty on student success point to starting earlier and doing a lot more.

James Heckman is an economist at the University of Chicago and finds that a lack of skills puts people into perpetual poverty. Poor students grow into poor adults because they never learn how to compete in a tech and service driven economy. He finds that early intervention can teach poor children the skills they need—cognitive skills such as reading and writing, as well as non-cognitive skills such as delay of gratification and sticking to a schedule.

The next reformer answers the question of what kind of interventions. Susan Neuman is an educational scholar who finds nine successful nonschool interventions such as counseling for poor mothers during pregnancy, day-care centers, language-enrichment for Spanish-speaking parents, and a pre-K program which enrolls 4-year-olds who score the lowest in standardized testing and brings them up to speed before kindergarten.

Lastly, is Geoffrey Canada whose agency called the Harlem Children’s Zone has a $58 million budget and serves 8,000 kids in Harlem. He runs two K-12 charter schools and also offers a multitude of social programs. As the students progress, his program mimics the support enjoyed by middle-class and upper-middle-class students. His goal is to produce students that can survive in their neighborhoods, make it to college, and graduate.

Photo: Alex Tehrani


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