‘Wraparound services’ warrant closer look

The term “wraparound services” came into prominence in connection with the Harlem Children’s Zone.  Supporters claimed that the approach resulted in better outcomes than those posted by schools elsewhere with similar populations.  But a new study calls into question their benefits (“Current research finds little impact of wraparound services on student learning,” Education Next, Summer 2019).

More specifically, the study found that although attitudes about school and relationships with adults and peers improved, there was no evidence of improved student achievement.  That’s not to say that affective outcomes aren’t important.  On the contrary, they are often more lasting.  But schools primarily exist to teach knowledge and skills.  If they cannot produce evidence that they are achieving their objective in this area, taxpayers will be reluctant to support them.

Further, although graduation rates at treatment schools increased, they did not improve more than at comparison schools.  That datum alone is telling because graduation rates will always rise if standards are sufficiently lowered.  It’s time to ask why wraparound services have not resulted in far better results.  Until the answer is forthcoming, it’s too soon to jump to conclusions about their worth.

(To post a comment, click on the title of this blog.)

2 Replies to “‘Wraparound services’ warrant closer look”

  1. By the time the low-SES child starts kindergarten. it will usually be too late to remedy the reduced vocabulary size, less-developed cognitive skills, and less-developed neural pathways that are the result of inadequate parenting from birth through kindergarten and that place the low-SES kindergarten student below “grade level” relative to the higher-SES kindergarten students. These low-SES students who start kindergarten with these characteristics will find academic work to be difficult/frustrating; the difficulty and frustration will increase each year as the students fall further below “grade level”. By upper-elementary and middle-school years, these students will have turned to minor misbehavior to relieve the frustration/gain peer approval and will have given up on academic effort. In schools where there are many such students (most inner-city neighborhood public schools). the minor misbehavior will become endemic and anti-academic-achievement peer pressure will become the norm.

    The most effective — probably the only effective — way to attack this problem is with reforms aimed at improving the parenting the low-SES child receives from birth through kindergarten. That means high-quality preschool starting at the earliest possible ages and extensive training in how to effectively parent for the low-SES parents.

    Once the students start kindergarten, the most effective reform will be reinstating tracking so that the “below-grade-level” students will receive instruction at their grade level + so that the “below-grade-level” students will find that they can achieve academically. Probably need smaller classes and a second adult in these classes for the lower-track students.

    Of course, none of this is going to happen. The significant expansion of high-quality preschool is too expensive + any govt official who advocates any of these reforms will be accused of being racist or elitist.

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  2. Labor Lawyer: I share your skepticism. Even high quality preschool is not a panacea because children spend most of their waking hours outside of schools. Tracking is seen as elitist, which is the kiss of death in this country. So I expect to see little differences in the future.

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