Provider Watch - October 12, 2009 - Useful News to Providers

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The Huge Economic Impact of the Achievement Gap

McKinsey & Company is one of the leading management consulting companies in the world so when they turn their attention to analyzing a problem, people listen. Recently, McKinsey's Social Sector Office has been studying a crisis affecting America’s children that has enormous repercussions for our nation. In April, they released the report The Economic Impact of the Achievement Gap in America's Schools, and in it they concluded our nation's persistent educational disparities are taking a huge economic toll.

McKinsey's research shows that while we may have promised to create an educational system where there will be "no child left behind," we're still very far from living up to that promise. Not only do we continue to leave behind whole groups of children, but our failure to educate all our children to the highest levels means students in America overall are being left behind in a world where global competition is increasingly tough―resulting in huge costs for all of us.

What is the price we pay for schools that aren't doing their job for children in America? Who pays it? McKinsey reported two kinds of costs―one price paid for by the individual students we leave behind and another price paid by our country. For individual children faced with unequal educational opportunities, McKinsey found that "avoidable shortfalls in academic achievement impose heavy and often tragic consequences, via lower earnings, poorer health and higher rates of incarceration." They also discovered that, sadly, it is possible to predict which children are being singled out to bear this burden before they have even finished elementary school. For many students, poor achievement as early as fourth grade appears to predict future chances of graduating from high school or college and of low lifetime earnings. But some children are at greater risk than others before they even enter their first classroom—especially children who are Black, Latino or poor. 

McKinsey's research showed "on average, Black and Latino students are roughly two to three years of learning behind White students of the same age." The income achievement gap was just as glaring with poor children: "roughly two years of learning behind the average better-off student of the same age." They were also able to make comparisons between groups by both race and income. Not surprisingly, they found the intersection of race and poverty was the most dangerous of all: "Poor White students tend toward lower achievement than rich White students. Whites, meanwhile, significantly outperform Blacks and Latinos at each income level . . . [and] low-income Black students suffer from the largest achievement gap of any cohort." Measured in years again, "the average non-poor White student is about three and a half years ahead in learning compared to the average poor Black student." 

It's almost possible to imagine those gaps as wasted time—time so many children can never get back. And productivity the whole country cannot get back. McKinsey estimated what our nation's GDP might look like if we had closed these achievement gaps between 1983 and 1998, the fifteen years after the government report, "A Nation at Risk," first alerted us to the serious problems facing children in our schools. They found that the 2008 GDP would have been $310 billion to $525 billion higher if we had closed the racial achievement gap, and $400 billion to $670 billion higher if we had closed the income achievement gap. McKinsey also found that there continues to be a gap between students in America and their peers in other countries and notes the 2008 U.S. GDP could have been $1.3-$2.3 trillion higher if had we had closed the international educational achievement gap between students in America and those in top-performing countries like Finland and Korea. McKinsey concluded that the combined impact of the educational achievement gaps in the United States is the "economic equivalent of a permanent, deep recession."

 The McKinsey report is not all gloom and doom―it found at least one reason for hope. When they studied the variations between schools and systems serving similar students in different parts of the country, they found wide differences in outcomes. But this time, they believe those gaps are actually promising, because when some schools are having success, there is every reason to expect that some of their best practices can be studied and replicated elsewhere—a basic premise of management consulting. McKinsey states: "Many teachers and schools across the country are proving that race and poverty are not destiny; many more are demonstrating that middle-class children can be educated to world-class levels of performance. America's history of bringing disadvantaged groups into the economic mainstream over time, and the progress of other nations in education, suggest that large steps forward are possible." The lesson in McKinsey's thorough research is that in many cases we already know what is working. We need to find both the will and resources to take these solutions to scale for all children. The futures of tens of millions of children and of our country depend on it.

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Safe Schools: Ending Restraint and Seclusion in Georgia Public Schools

The Georgia Advocacy Office, in collaboration with The Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities, the Center for Leadership in Disability at Georgia State University, and the Institute on Human Development and Disability at the University of Georgia, urges the Georgia State Board of Education to promulgate a rule that protects all Georgia students from restraint and seclusion and which encourages the proactive use of Positive Behavior Supports in Georgia public schools.

The Department of Education has heeded the call of advocates to regulate the State's dangerous practice of restraint and seclusion by preparing for rule initiation sometime in the late fall or early spring. Early draft versions of the rule have outlawed the use of seclusion and have limited the use of restraint to those situations involving risk of serious bodily injury to self or others. Additionally, prone restraint, chemical restraint, and the practice of restraint used as a punitive measure have been prohibited.

We applaud the Department's decision to address this issue through the development of a rule. This is a good start, but more work is needed. The coalition urges the public to join us in insisting that the rule prohibits the use of adversives, clarifies and strengthens the training requirements for school personnel, provides enhanced safeguards for students who experience prolonged restraint, and creates enforcement and reporting mechanisms.

We invite members of the community to come hear about the State Board of Education rule promulgation process and how they can become involved through public comment. Please join us as we discuss this exciting opportunity at the Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities public forum on Thursday, October 15, 2009 at 5:30-7 p.m. at the Pilot International Foundation located at 102 Preston Ct, Macon, 31210.

Contact jholland@thegao.org  for more information about the rule promulgation process.

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