Money is the Root of All Learning: Commentary by Sean Reardon

Money is the Root of All Learning

Money is a significant factor in student success.  It may not be the entire reason, although through observation, experience, and studies we see it does affect growth of learning.  Despite all the good intentions, campaign promises, political gamesmanship, and strident school revivals, we have yet to have a Great Awakening in American education.  

Instead, we have hedged our bets on the Jesusification of the American teacher.  Bad teachers are not the reason.  Any politician from any party would be smart to admit this fact and capitalize on it for support.  Learning does not take place in the vacuum of a classroom, it is in as good of shape as a society's current political system, civic virtues, families, businesses, entertainment, and mindset.  

Poverty, transiency, spotty previous education, and the challenge of being a newcomer to a language are the big factors.  The following is a excerpt from a commentary in the New York Times by Professor Sean Reardon.  “Sean Reardon is professor of education and (by courtesy) sociology at Stanford University, specializing in research on the effects of educational policy on educational and social inequality.  His primary research examines the relative contribution of family, school, and neighborhood environments to ethnic and socioeconomic achievement disparities.”

No Rich Child Left Behind

“It may seem counterintuitive, but schools don’t seem to produce much of the disparity in test scores between high- and low-income students.  We know this because children from rich and poor families score very differently on school readiness tests when they enter kindergarten, and this gap grows by less than 10 percent between kindergarten and high school.  There is some evidence that achievement gaps between high- and low-income students actually narrow during the nine-month school year, but they widen again in the summer months.

That isn’t to say that there aren’t important differences in quality between schools serving low- and high-income students — there certainly are — but they appear to do less to reinforce the trends than conventional wisdom would have us believe.

If not the usual suspects, what’s going on?  It boils down to this: The academic gap is widening because rich students are increasingly entering kindergarten much better prepared to succeed in school than middle-class students.  This difference in preparation persists through elementary and high school.

My research suggests that one part of the explanation for this is rising income inequality.  As you may have heard, the incomes of the rich have grown faster over the last 30 years than the incomes of the middle class and the poor.  Money helps families provide cognitively stimulating experiences for their young children because it provides more stable home environments, more time for parents to read to their children, access to higher-quality child care and preschool and — in places like New York City, where 4-year-old children take tests to determine entry into gifted and talented programs — access to preschool test preparation tutors or the time to serve as tutors themselves.

But rising income inequality explains, at best, half of the increase in the rich-poor academic achievement gap.  It’s not just that the rich have more money than they used to, it’s that they are using it differently.  This is where things get really interesting.

High-income families are increasingly focusing their resources — their money, time and knowledge of what it takes to be successful in school — on their children’s cognitive development and educational success.  They are doing this because educational success is much more important than it used to be, even for the rich."  

For the complete article go to

We all may have known money impacts learning, the next step is what we can do about it.  The following links provide resources and tips for actions to take to improve your own learning, the learning of your own children, or that of your grandchildren, or employees.  

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Please Join Me in Supporting AIM for the CURE Melanoma Walk Fullerton, California

AIM for the CURE Melanoma Walk Fullerton, California

Last year I flew to Texas to participate in a fundraiser to raise money for cancer research.  The event was held at Bachman Lake Park Dallas, Texas.  AIM is a non-profit organization committed to melanoma research, education, awareness, and legislation.  Jean Schlipmann, President at James A. Schlipmann Melanoma Cancer Foundation and Co-Founder Aim at Melanoma.  Scott Murray, Emmy Award winning broadcaster and cancer survivor, was the emcee.  Participants raised over $17,000 for the foundation and its work.  Carol Kendall's team, the team I joined with, raised $4,409. 

This year a walk is taking place in Fullerton, California on May 12.  Please join me in supporting Team Carol Kendall.  Follow the link to donate or to join the walk.

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Honey Greek Yogurt with Balsamic Syrup Dessert by Jesse Bluma

Honey Greek Yogurt with Balsamic Syrup

We all love a good dessert.  This is a perfect way to conquer your sweet tooth, end a dinner, or capture the heart of a date.  Greek yogurt is made by straining out the whey, creating a thicker and more creamy texture.  The straining process removes some of the sugar and carbohydrates (a sugar, starch, or fiber molecule that delivers energy), leaving more protein per ounce.  Check the labels for various fat contents.  Top this dessert with your favorite herb, such as organic mint.  You can also toast walnuts and sprinkle them on the scoops of yogurt.  An infinite amount of toppings exist.  My version included organic mint and toasted organic coconut flakes.  Diced pear cooked with cinnamon and honey would also be a good option.

Honey Greek Yogurt (3 ice cream scoops per martini glass)
3 Tablespoons of Balsamic Vinegar (use your favorite brand and flavor that works with the yogurt) per martini glass (you will reduce this down 3/4 way)
3 organic coconut flakes per martini glass
Organic mint to garnish


Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit / 176.6 degrees Celsius.
Lay coconut flakes flat on a baking sheet that is lined with parchment paper.
After the oven is preheated then toast the coconut flakes in the oven for approximately 5 minutes.  (Keep an eye on the coconut through the oven window, as toasting times will differ.)
When coconut flakes are a golden brown, remove the baking sheet with an oven mitt.

Wash and dry the mint.

Use a medium size heavy sauce pan to make the balsamic syrup.
Pour in the balsamic vinegar and bring to a boil on high heat (3 Tablespoons for 1 portion, 6 Tablespoons for 2 portions, 9 Tablespoons for 3 portions, 12 Tablespoons for 4 portions, etc.).
Lower the heat to low, medium-low and simmer until the balsamic vinegar is thickened.  If the balsamic vinegar gets too hot, simply remove the pan from the heat for a moment.  The syrup will be approximately 1/4 the original amount.
Any unused syrup can be stored in the refrigerator and used the next day for a second helping of yogurt or another recipe.


At the last moment possible, add 3 scoops Greek yogurt to each martini glass.
Spoon balsamic vinegar over yogurt scoops.
Garnish with toasted coconut flakes and mint.

Serve this Honey Greek Yogurt with Balsamic Syrup with your favorite cookies, cupcakes, and brownies.

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Fabio's Italian Kitchen: Fabio Viviani Firenze Osteria Cooking Class

Fabio Viviani Firenze Osteria Cooking Class

Chef Fabio’s Easter Cooking Class at Firenze Osteria was an excellent opportunity to learn some flavorful tips and tricks.  Fabio flew overnight from his restaurant Siena Tavern in Chicago, Illinois back to Los Angles for the class.  He has built an empire and is dedicated to maintaining it.  During our class, Fabio explained how he works late hours and slices through lots of challenges in the restaurant business.  A good inspiration for perseverance.

His advice to those seeking to enter the restaurant business is to think more than twice.  Fabio was born in Florence, Italy and at the age off 11 began working in restaurants.  Between the age of 11 and now, Fabio opened several restaurants and appeared on the television program Top Chef.  In the tradition of many great Italian chefs, Fabio does not give measured recipes.  A pinch of this and a spoon of that is how he cooks and teaches.

Lemon Cello Cured Salmon Bruschettini

Gnocchi-Duck Sugo

Fabio's Grandmother's Roasted Chicken with Herbed Polenta

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