Moving America Forward

A Simple Solution For America’s Achievement Gap

June 20, 2014
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A Simple Solution For America’s Achievement Gap
Exercise can close the achievement gap, according to some studies. Alex Wong/Getty Images
Turns out, exercise doesn't just burn calories and improve heart health.

The difference in achievement between high and low-income students at every education level is staggering.

So what are educators to do? Despite providing all children with the same teachers and curriculum, they can’t do anything about the circumstances that kids are saddled with before and after the bell.

One way to narrow this so-called achievement gap? Exercise.

Back in 2012, using physical activity to help low-income schoolchildren gained popularity after a study showed that it could be of significant help to them. Short, 12-minute bursts of exercise like those used in the study could have the obvious effect of releasing the extra energy that little kids seem to harbor.

But would exercise help college-age low-income students as well? Further research was performed by Michele Tine, an assistant professor of education at Darthmouth College in New Hampshire.

Sure enough, a little bit of physical exertion helped focus that age group too, regardless of income. A test measuring students’ ability to focus on stimuli while ignoring distractions found that scores shot up for all who did a workout beforehand, while remaining unchanged for the control group. Tine’s results were recently published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology.

Despite benefiting everyone, physical activity before class proved the most effective for low-income students. The result was not a slight bump, though – rather, those same 12 minutes of aerobic exercise that helped disadvantaged little kids effectively eliminated the achievement gap between low and high-income students. The low-income students were able to maintain their gains for a sustained 45 minutes after exercise as well, making this an effective technique for improving scores on actual tests as well as performance in the classroom.

Thanks to Tine and her team, the permanent roadblocks preventing so many from academic excellence can now be broken down with a few minutes of jumping jacks or jogging in place.

MORE:  Delaware Pushes to Get More Low-Income Students Enrolled in Higher Education

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