Helping Kids of Equal Talent Grow Into Equally Successful Students and Adults

Posted May 29, 2019
By the Annie E. Casey Foundation
Dunbar Learning Complex early childhood center and elementary school

Photo by Jason E. Miczek for the Casey Foundation

Chil­dren who strug­gle ear­ly in school can change course and ulti­mate­ly suc­ceed as stu­dents and adults. Yet, this trans­for­ma­tion is less like­ly to take place when kids miss out on effec­tive inter­ven­tions — a dis­ad­van­tage that rings true for many chil­dren of col­or and kids from low-income neigh­bor­hoods, accord­ing to a new report fund­ed by the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

Born to Win, Schooled to Lose from George­town University’s Cen­ter on Edu­ca­tion and the Work­force lever­ages data from five dif­fer­ent stud­ies and sur­veys to exam­ine how a family’s socioe­co­nom­ic sta­tus impacts an individual’s life tra­jec­to­ry — first as a stu­dent and lat­er as a work­ing young adult.

The research here is clear: Mon­ey makes a dif­fer­ence. Kids from wealth­i­er fam­i­lies who score low­er on kinder­garten tests have a 71% chance of reach­ing above-medi­an socioe­co­nom­ic sta­tus, accord­ing to the report. Mean­while, poor­er kids with high­er scores have just a 31% chance of hit­ting this same socioe­co­nom­ic mark.

Race also makes a dif­fer­ence, the researchers found. Among tenth graders post­ing above-medi­an test scores for math, col­lege degrees were more elu­sive for stu­dents of col­or: Just 46% of Lati­no and 51% of black stu­dents had earned a col­lege degree after 10 years. By com­par­i­son, 62% of white stu­dents and 69% of Asian stu­dents had grad­u­at­ed from col­lege dur­ing this same time span.

When chil­dren of priv­i­lege stum­ble, they have safe­ty nets to break their fall,” says Alli­son Ger­ber, a senior asso­ciate in the Casey Foundation’s Cen­ter for Eco­nom­ic Oppor­tu­ni­ty. We need to explore which fac­tors and inter­ven­tions make the great­est dif­fer­ence in help­ing young peo­ple bounce back and how we can ensure that more chil­dren of col­or have access to them.”

Born to Win, Schooled to Lose under­scores the pow­er of strong social net­works, well-fund­ed neigh­bor­hoods, social and eco­nom­ic cap­i­tal and aca­d­e­m­i­cal­ly chal­leng­ing schools. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, youth from low socioe­co­nom­ic back­grounds often expe­ri­ence the oppo­site sce­nar­ios — a lack of access to enrich­ment activ­i­ties, under­fund­ed schools, crum­bling neigh­bor­hood infra­struc­ture and lim­it­ed inter­ac­tions with role mod­els who have post­sec­ondary edu­ca­tion experience.

Sev­er­al strate­gies for bridg­ing suc­cess gaps — as iden­ti­fied in the report — are:

  • Expand­ing ear­ly, pre‑K learn­ing inter­ven­tions and oppor­tu­ni­ties to close gaps in readi­ness between stu­dents of dif­fer­ent socioe­co­nom­ic back­grounds enter­ing kindergarten.
  • Con­tin­u­ing aca­d­e­m­ic inter­ven­tions through­out K‑12, such as after-school and men­tor­ing pro­grams, which help improve school performance.
  • Improv­ing and expand­ing high school coun­sel­ing to equip more stu­dents with the infor­ma­tion they need to tran­si­tion from high school to post­sec­ondary edu­ca­tion and training.
  • Inte­grat­ing career explo­ration and prepa­ra­tion into the high school advis­ing process to expose stu­dents to career paths that lead to mid­dle-class incomes.

A key focus for the Casey Foun­da­tion is to help young peo­ple — espe­cial­ly young peo­ple fac­ing some of life’s tough­est chal­lenges — con­nect with pos­i­tive edu­ca­tion­al and career path­ways,” says Ger­ber. While there is still so much more we hope to learn and share, this research is an impor­tant step toward under­stand­ing how our invest­ments can have the great­est impact.”

Read the report

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