Yes, I too am incredibly sick of hearing about the fiscal cliff. The fact that negotiations don't seem to be going anywhere and that we're all just waiting for Congress to do something does make it hard to care.
So if it's going down what should you know? One resource is the Urban Institutes' Fiscal Cliff Toolkit. It's a guide that in plain language explains some of the cuts to entitlement programs being talked about. The Urban Institute comes from left-of-center, so for those of you looking for another perspective the Heritage Foundation has put together something similar.
Nicholas Kristof wrote in the New York Times on Friday about a trip to Kentucky, where he heard stories of parents removing their children from literacy programs so they could keep getting disability payments from the government:
"There’s a danger in drawing too firm conclusions about an issue — fighting poverty — that is as complex as human beings themselves. I’m no expert on domestic poverty. But for me, a tentative lesson from the field is that while we need safety nets, the focus should be instead on creating opportunity — and, still more difficult, on creating an environment that leads people to seize opportunities."
THIS is what poverty sometimes looks like in America: parents here in Appalachian hill country pulling their children out of literacy classes. Moms and dads fear that if kids learn to read, they are less likely to qualify for a monthly check for having an intellectual disability.
Lansing is abuzz with controversial legislation, including a number of bills that would overhaul Michigan's public education system. Our colleague Jake Neher reports on one measure that would expand the state's school reform district. The Education Achievement Authority currently runs a handful of low-performing Detroit schools. The new bills would allow the EAA to take over all failing public schools in Michigan.
About 120 African American children from Ypsilanti were enrolled in the project, all of whom lived in poverty. Half the children were enrolled in half-day preschool at Perry, the other half were not.
The two groups have been studied for more than 40 years and the children who attended Perry Preschool have pretty much outperformed the control group in every measurable category – from test scores and high school graduation rates all the way through to adulthood.
So what, exactly, does it take to produce those kinds of results?
The effect of teacher turnover on student learning is well-documented (unsurprisingly it makes learning more difficult). But I was wondering if a study had been done to find out how much teacher turnover costs districts.
And the answer is, "Of course there's a study on that!"
Our colleague Lindsey Smith has been doing some dogged reporting about what's going on in the school district in Muskegon Heights. Over the summer, the district's emergency manager laid off every employee and hired a private company to effectively run the district as one big charter. Three months into the new system, Lindsey reports that a quarter of teachers have quit and students say the learning environment is chaotic.
If you've been following State of Opportunity over the past couple months, you've probably heard us talk about the Harlem Children's Zone. It's this 100-block zone in central Harlem that's designed to create a safety net so strong and so wide that no child could fall through and fail. The program covers all kids from birth through college.
James Heckman is one of the world’s most distinguished economists. He built his career studying the labor market. In 2000, he won the Nobel Prize.
But in recent years, Heckman has become famous for something else. He is now one of the country’s leading advocates for investments in early childhood education. Earlier this month, I had a chance to sit down with him to find out how an economist came to care about preschool.