Researching Cause 4 has been frustrating. On one hand, I immediately ran right into a pretty terrific overview of what’s known about how to improve high schools. On the other hand, I have a couple burning questions that I’m struggling to answer, and I’d appreciate any thoughts.
1. How does the achievement gap break down by year in school?
What I’d really like to know is what % of students is below grade level in reading and math as of each year (entering K, entering 1st grade, etc.), broken down by income (and race, if possible). I’ve seen scattered statements along these lines, but what I’m describing seems so essential for deciding where intervention is most needed.
2. What’s the connection between education and later life outcomes?
Initially, I hadn’t planned to spend much time on this question – it seems intuitively obvious that a college education leads to much more opportunity than a high school diploma, which in turn is much better than dropping out. But as I look through reports like the one above, I’m starting to question whether targeting academic performance is the same as targeting better outcomes. For example, it looks like one of the best ways to improve test scores is through extremely intensive instruction … is someone’s likelihood of becoming a doctor rather than a drug dealer really more impacted by their knowledge of math after having it drilled into them, or by, say, mental health? (I’d still guess that it’s the former, actually, but I’d like to see some evidence – especially because I’m trying to decide on the relative value of getting dropout risks through high school vs. getting non-dropout risks ready for college.)