November 6, 2015


School vs. Society in America's Failing Students (Eduardo Porter, 11/03/15, NY Times)

In a report released last week, Martin Carnoy from the Graduate School of Education at Stanford, Emma GarcĂ­a from the Economic Policy Institute in Washington and Tatiana Khavenson from the Institute of Education at the Higher School of Economics in Moscow, suggest that socioeconomic deficits impose a particularly heavy burden on American schools. [...]

American students from families with the least educational resources, as it turned out, scored better on the PISA math test than similar children in France and about the same as Britons, Germans and Irish.

Encouragingly, disadvantaged American students have made more progress over recent years than those in even some of the highest-ranked countries. And some American states perform as well as the international darlings. Adjusting for families' academic resources, 15-year-olds in Massachusetts scored roughly as high in the PISA math test as students in Canada, Finland and Poland.

Mr. Carnoy and his colleagues estimated that the score gap between American students and those in the highest-ranked countries -- Finland, Canada and South Korea -- shrinks by 25 percent in math and 40 percent in reading once proper adjustments for gender, age, mother's education and books in the home are taken into account.

A similar pattern shows up within the United States: Adjusting for differences in demography and access to academic resources -- including variables like language spoken at home, eligibility for free and reduced-price lunch and parental education -- reduced performance gaps between states on the National Assessment of Educational Progress by 40 to 50 percent.

Awareness that America's educational deficits are driven to a large degree by socioeconomic disadvantage might move the policy debate, today so firmly anchored in a "schools fail" mode. It offers up a new question: Is it reasonable to ask public schools to fix societal problems that start holding disadvantaged children back before they are conceived?

Move the families to better neighborhoods, not the kids to new schools.

Posted by at November 6, 2015 4:35 PM