Elementary school is the most important time in a child's education. This is recognized by anyone that does educational research. Common thought is that any child is reachable until 3rd/4th grade. That until this point, any child that is behind in reading or math can catch up. Whatever circumstances they face at home, and whatever the strain on the student, it can be overcome with the right interventions, until 3rd or 4th grade.
That's around age 9-10.
After that, if a kid struggles, they have a very hard time beating the odds. Think about this for a second: 9 or 10.
This means that if this person is struggling at 9 or 10, it will very possibly stick with them for life. Their statistics for prison, drug use, and all types of trouble are much, much higher than anyone that is okay in school at this point. They're more likely to be affected by all the problems of society, and we can predict this from that young of an age. Read More.
I'm not an elementary school teacher, but I am a human with a heart. I've worked with elementary students, and seen the heartbreak that comes when they are not challenged and inspired. I've seen poor (often minority) students sit in a terrible classroom while their suburban counterparts are passing them by. It's sad. I also want to actively demonstrate what I think is a bit of the problem: admittedly, I do not have the answers on this one. I do have a suggestion, but if I were running things, I would defer to passionate experts that do know what they're doing.
What I would recommend is that we do something about this, here and now, to make sure that none of our young children suffer. I propose this: make teacher's salaries for K-3rd grade teachers in impoverished areas $125K p/year, along with incentives. Attract talented, intelligent, driven people, and put them in the positions of teachers. If they don't perform, fire them immediately. Incentivize the people that are there to stay. Use capitalism to our advantage, by helping the disadvantaged.
Right now, we do the opposite: we pay these teachers the shittiest, provide them no support, and so we lose many good, beautiful kids because we do not help them. And while this happens, the students are promoted to 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6th grades on a negative path, sometimes never hear from again.