Americans like to pride ourselves that we live in a land of equal opportunity. Yet we also know that many children come into the world with the deck stacked heavily against them. Data show that children who are born in poverty to young, poorly educated parents have much lower chances of succeeding in school, college, and the workforce than their less-disadvantaged peers. They are also at greater risk for a host of negative outcomes, including poor academic performance, being held back a grade, dropping out of high school, being unemployed, and participating in criminal activity. But there is good news. Researchers are identifying a growing number of interventions—many focused on families and children in their earliest years—that have real promise to break the cycle of poverty for our most disadvantaged youngsters. In a new book, Changing the Odds for Children at Risk: Seven Essential Principles for Educational Programs that Break the Cycle of Poverty, former U.S. Assistant Secretary of Education Susan Neuman, an internationally recognized literacy and early childhood researcher, identifies several programs with a documented track record of improving outcomes for disadvantaged children. Based on her analysis of what makes these programs work, Neuman draws seven lessons for policymakers seeking to better use public investment to improve the prospects for the most at-risk youngsters.
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