In this article from the Forum for Youth Investment, Karen Pittman, CEO and co-Founder of the Forum for Youth Investment, offers three key insights based on the work of the Ready by 21 initiative on how to better improve youth outcomes by closing the gap between those at the bottom and those at the top of the readiness curve.

Moving Forward Together
Opening Plenary Remarks, Condensed

Ready by 21® National Meeting, April 2012
Karen Pittman, President and CEO, The Forum for Youth Investment

I was born one month premature, in 1952. At four pounds, I was considered a high‐risk baby. My parents were told that they were lucky that I came home healthy. Two months ago yesterday, Thaddeus Ferber (our VP for Policy) and his wife, Heather, became the proud parents of twins who were born two months early, weighing in together at not much more than five pounds. These tiny little girls are now at home and doing fine. They would have, at a minimum, experienced developmental challenges if they were born when I was.

Fast forward 17 years. I graduated from the D.C. public school system in 1969. At that time, 77 percent of the 17‐ year‐old population obtained high school diplomas. This was a peak year, according to Jim Heckman, the Nobel Prize‐winning economist. That percentage then went into slow decline until about 2002. It’s now on its way back to where it was when I was 17.

How can we manage to improve exponentially the life chances of babies coming into the world early, but make no headway in improving graduation rates? Is the difference in progress related to data quality? Technology? The discipline of the hard sciences?

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