Targeting early investments in children for greater return

Last week Share Our Strength board member Scott Schoen arranged for me to have lunch with Massachusetts’ former Superintendent of Education Paul Reville, who was intrigued by the Deloitte report and especially the connections we are seeing between school breakfast and attendance. Afterward, Scott sent this article from the New York Times business section “Investments in Education May be Misdirected” @ http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/03/business/studies-highlight-benefits-of-early-education.html 

The article reports on the work of Nobel Prize winning economist James Heckman which shows that early interventions on behalf of kids are much more effective and much less expensive than later interventions.  While we’ve always assumed that to be true, Heckman’s work shows that the gap in cognitive performance “is there before kids walk into kindergarten” and doesn’t really improve over time notwithstanding the massive amounts of money spent on remedial efforts as kids get older.  Public policy lags behind such insights, with public spending on higher education three times greater than spending on preschool. 

Scott Schoen’s interest in Heckman’s research seemed consistent with his impressive track record as an investor accountable for producing significant return on investment,  Given what we are learning – and proving – about the connection between school breakfast and academic achievement, such research may suggest how we can best target our No Kid Hungry strategies to ensure that kids get the nutrition they need when they need it the most.  

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