I was listening to This American Life’s podcast (episode 364 Going Big) over the weekend. The first story follows a project called the Harlem Children’s Zone. The basic point of the story is that to make a real change in Children’s lives you had to start at an early age. Geoffrey Canada who runs the program philosophy is that poorer families need to do the same things middle class and rich families think is obvious: read to your young children, encourage them a lot, and use time outs and reasoning instead of corporal punishment.
As part of the episode the reporter interviewed James Heckman, Nobel Prize winner and U Chicago Economist. I wrote about Heckman’s work on these types of programs about a year ago (see this post). Heckman findings can be summed up with to make a difference you need to intervene before a child gets to 3 years old to make a difference.
A close look at the Harlem Children’s Zone data by Dobbie and Fryer in a recent paper shows “….Harlem Children’s Zone is enormously effective at increasing the achievement of the poorest minority children. Taken at face value, the effects in middle school are enough to reverse the black-white achievement gap in mathematics and reduce it in English Language Arts.”