I was taken aback at the Nov. 1 editorial, “Our View: Poorer Maine students left behind at alarming rate.” As an associate professor of education at the University of Southern Maine, I agree that we need to address the growing socioeconomic achievement gap; however, I disagree with the editorial’s stated methods.

The suggestion of putting youth into full-time day care starting at birth surprised me. This suggestion seemed to come from the point of view that these youth would be better off in full-time day care than with family. We need only to look at history to see that children are never better off being educated away from their families.

In addition, studies have shown that even when youth with low socioeconomic status attend preschool programs and start schooling at the same academic level as their more well-off peers, an achievement gap still appears between the socioeconomic groups and expands as they continue toward graduation. Hence, changes also need to happen after schooling starts.

Major research about the achievement gap is the Adverse Childhood Experiences Study, which demonstrated that the brain development of youth who are raised in a toxic stress environment differs from that of youth raised in stable environments.

Toxic stress occurs in an environment when there is stress all the time, such as food insecurity, unstable housing or low-wage employment. To support the education of these youth, it has been shown that educating teachers about the differences in brain development and how it affects behavior and learning is the best way to support these youths in their education.

In addition, creating community schools, where youth engage with their families in activities from birth throughout their schooling, has shown great results in decreasing the achievement gap. When schools are centers where multiple needs are met and all can be fully who they are, many achievement gaps decrease.


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