Closing the Gaps with Neuroscience – by Betsy Hill

The current issue of Educational Leadership ( approaches the imperative of closing the achievement gaps in education from multiple perspectives.  Despite their different perspectives, a common theme is neuroscience.  It is refreshing to see the discipline of what we know scientifically about the brain applied to the perennial problems of helping disadvantaged students.

In one article, Dr. Richard Nesbitt examines a series of interventions both big and small.  Some of the big ones have seemed to produce little result; some of the smaller ones have shown a bigger impact.  For example, he describes Head Start as an intervention that produced “reduction of the gap by a few IQ points at the beginning of elementary school, which falls into nothing after a few years of school.”  Another smaller intervention resulted in big IQ gains that persisted.  It is exciting to read analysis that recognizes the importance of developing intelligence in a sustainable way.

In fact, it seems to be clear that kids from disadvantaged backgrounds don’t just need for the dollars applied to their school experience to be “evened up.”  In fact, their ability to learn is qualitatively and quantitatively different.  Being treated the same isn’t going to work.  Being helped to develop the capacity to benefit from good teaching and good curriculum is essential.

Not only can some interventions, BrainWare Safari among them, produce a big impact that doesn’t cost much more than “school as usual,” they can actually reduce the costs of school as we’ve known it.  Fewer interventions, fewer discipline issues, high persistence and graduation rates — those reduce costs.  This is one of those times when it costs less to do it right.


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