Monday, March 12, 2012

Good News...Bad News?

The Oregon Quarterly reports some good news from various brain development studies at the university.  Excitedly pointing out that biology is not destiny, the article recounts the work of psychology professor Helen Neville which shows that attention and learning deficits can be overcome with training.  Neville observes that we now have tools to address the destructive consequences of poverty on children's brain development and learning capacities.

The bad news, you ask?  Neither Neville nor the author quibbles over the idea that poverty undermines a brain's development and a child's school-readiness.  Neville finds, for instance, that "children from relatively well-off families have better-developed brains than children from poor families."

The good news is that we have tools to deal with a very bad news situation.  Oh, more bad news--perhaps--the article offers only oblique statements of just how much and how durable the help is for the underdeveloped brains.

Don't tell the Tacoma school district, though.  Their Achievement Gap consultant tells us on p. 13 that poverty and family circumstance are 'secondary' causes of lower performance by African-American students.  "Inequitable distribution of skilled teachers," and "institutional racism" are the 'primary' factors.

By the way, the text of the consultant's report includes 88 references to 'African' or 'black' and 2 references to 'Hispanic,' even though the Hispanic achievement gap is as wide as the black achievement gap.

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