Steinhardt Education Policy Series Explores Closing the Achievement Gap


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(Pictured l. to r.: Mary Brabeck, dean of NYU Steinhardt; Michael Rebell, executive director, Campaign for Educational Equity; Clancy Blair, professor of applied psychology; Carola Suárez-Orozco, co-director of Immigration Studies @ NYU)

NYU Steinhardt’s Education Policy Breakfast series, “Closing the Achievement Gap: Facing Challenges from Outside the Classroom,” recently kicked off with a panel discussion on research into the challenges that inhibit school readiness among children. Following introductory remarks by Dean Mary Brabeck, Clancy Blair, Steinhardt professor of applied psychology, outlined current research into early childhood development and school readiness. Blair, a developmental psychologist who studies self-regulation and executive function in children, noted that self-regulation, manifested through turn-taking, attention, and social competence, is crucial for young children to succeed in school. He cited research that suggests the extent to which environmental stressors, such as poverty, impede self-regulation in children and inhibit academic ability. Statistics indicate that 50 percent of teachers say more than half of school age children are not ready for school. He also cited a growing expulsion rate for preschool children with behavioral problems and increased off-label use of psychotropic medications for young children. “Outside challenges profoundly impact learning,” Blair said.

Blair was followed by Michael Rebell, an experienced litigator, researcher and scholar in the field of education law and executive director of the Campaign for Educational Equity at Columbia Teachers College. Rebell noted that there is “real demand” for programs that address the achievement gap, citing that nationally only 13 percent of low-income children participate in after school programs. In suggesting ways in which to turn successful pilot programs into policy, Rebell advocated for framing the issue in terms of a child’s right to a comprehensive education. For Rebell, there exists a moral, statutory, and Constitutional imperative to provide all children with a quality education.

Carola Suárez-Orozco, Steinhardt professor of applied psychology and co-director of Immigration Studies@NYU, was the event’s discussant, noting that “policy makers must develop culturally and developmentally informed policies grounded in the demographic realities of today’s student population, preparing them for the educational necessities of the 21st century.”