Title I: Closing the Achievement Gap by Closing the Capacity Gap — by Betsy Hill

 Since it was first introduced in 1965, Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education has sought to even the playing field by providing supplemental funding for schools with populations of students with low socio-economic status (SES).  The underlying assumption is that students with different SES status are essentially the same, with the same capacity to learn and the same ability to benefit from good educational resources.  Unfortunately, this is not the case.  In fact, students from low-SES families are functionally different from their more advantaged peers in cognitive abilities.  They come to school with less capacity to learn and to be successful in school and in life. 

That does not mean, however, that the achievement gap is permanent.  In fact, there is now substantial evidence that cognitive skills can be developed. Before students with deficits can learn, they must develop the capacity to learn. 

Deficits in cognitive capacity do not disappear immediately when children are exposed to good teaching and good curriculum.  In fact, such deficits are important barriers to being able to learn and often constitute limitations to the amount and pace of learning.

Interventions for Title I students have traditionally focused on external factors such as teaching, curriculum, environment, technology and other resources.  Interventions that address students’ internal capacity to learn and develop critical cognitive skills are required to enable students to “catch up” and to be able to benefit from those resources. 

 A new white paper that details the cognitive deficits of students of low SES, the implications for academic achievement and the effectiveness of BrainWare Safari cognitive skills development software is now available.  This is must reading for teachers and administrators dealing with the perennial challenge of closing the achievement gap.  A first step is recognizing that the achievement gap cannot be closed without first addressing the capacity gap.

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