Shirah Vollmer MD

The Musings of Dr. Vollmer

Achievement Gap: Mentoring Is The Solution….

Posted by Dr. Vollmer on October 14, 2013



“Thousands of California students in foster care are suffering from an “invisible achievement gap,” with worse academic performance, a higher dropout rate and placement in more failing schools than their statewide peers, according to a study set for release Monday.”


“Although he failed all of his classes in his first semester at Santa Monica High School, Perez said the group setting helped him learn such skills as time management. But the biggest aid was a mentor, Johnny Ramirez, from the Pico Youth and Family Center in Santa Monica. Ramirez encouraged him — but also warned him about the disproportionate number of young Latinos and African Americans whose struggles with school lead to prison. Perez improved his grades to A’s and B’s and graduated from Dorsey High School.”,0,3257218.story


Are we surprised that foster children have an achievement gap? They have been taken away from their biological parents, they have not been adopted, and they are thrown into a foster care system, which, on average, bounces these kids around from placement to placement depriving them of the stability to thrive in an academic setting. Consequently, they finish school without skills to pursue a job beyond minimum wage. Are we surprised that the few foster kids who did develop marketable skills, do so, because they have attached to a caring adult who guides them through the system in order to better their lives? This article now gives us data to support that first, foster kids are jettisoned into a world at an educational disadvantage, and two, the presence of a mentor will help some of them. Relationships lead to personal and professional growth and foster kids suffer from a painful void of caring relationships, and hence their future, on average, is very grim. Providing a supplemental guide is the one intervention which offers hope to these kids. This is the low-tech, high-time, approach which is consistent with what we know about how to promote growth and development. In essence, these kids need a stable person to care. Go figure.

2 Responses to “Achievement Gap: Mentoring Is The Solution….”

  1. Shelly said

    No, it can’t be. Taking kids away from their biological parents and placing them in “the system” which is supposed to be better for them isn’t the end-all? It isn’t the solution to the problem? Did the fine powers-that-be talk to the education system both before and after the kids were removed from the home and notice if taking the kids away from the parents had a positive effect on them? No? So how did they come to the realization that this might not be the solution to the problem? Maybe, just maybe, the parents could use support and the kids could safely be left at home, and mentoring could be factored into the equation?

    • Yes, family reunification is a very large issue, and, since parents do, in rare cases, murder their children, there is a judgment to be made with each family, and this decision is not clear. Perhaps, like I understand the prisons are doing, we need an algorithm so that DCFS can more accurately predict which children are in physical danger. Thanks.

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