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November 20, 2006



SAT scores correlate most strongly with family income.

Gary Maxwell

What a shock Democrats and the NYT ( I know that is repetitive ) pimping the race issue. Stunning reversal for.... well now that I think about it, its what they always do.


The key word is some progress. Reversing years of democrat neglect of our kids by bloating unions of teachers is going to take time. Working with At-Risk kids in the early 90's I learned the virtue of patience and tenacity. Do something to help drop-out rates rather than just complaining about it. NYT could have a mentoring program and help kids learn how to write news articles or research a topic. Stop whining and become part of the solution.



The problem is that the best teachers don't want to remain in the crappiest schools. So the crappiest schools end up with the crappiest teachers. This really was what NCLB was trying to deal with. The fact that the crappiest teachers end up in the crappiest schools and that the teacher's union rules make it all but impossible to get rid of these crappy teachers.

Consider that in NYC there are a couple hundred semi-fired teachers that arrive in one of several locations each working day. They show up. They nap, read a book, watch a movie, pass wind, etc etc and get paid for it.

Because the teacher's union makes it all but impossible to fire some of these twits.


The reason why America went from a good educational system to a shitty one is because Congress let the teacher's unionize.

You want a good school system? Legislate unions out of government. If you're working for the government, at any level, then you should not, can not, be allowed to form labor unions.

In part because of the traditional union/employer relationship is extremely tilted when applied to a government. A private corporation can close it's doors if it cannot come to an agreement with a union.

A government that cannot come to terms with an intransigent union absolutely must come to an agreement because the government cannot close it's doors. Thus we have ridiculous contracts between towns and teacher's unions.


presenting the achievement gap as a race problem when it "really" might be a reflection of income

A modest proposal ...

Take some lower income white families and give them more money to see if that raises their children's test scores.

Not to suggest that income and book learning abilities might be correlated by some other factor or quotient that can be passed somehow from parent to child. That's been disproven, discredited, denounced and demolished so often it hardly ever rears its ugly head anymore.


Some of the brightest students I've known have come from a poor economic situation. Parents realize their potential and try to get them in private schools or the honors programs available in the public schools. Mentoring kids is one positive solution. I agree with ed. Get rid of the dead weight teachers.


Well, this is not completely off the wall if you've been following the last decade or so of educational fads. About 10 years ago they came up with the (appallingly named) concept of "attendance centers". Take my town as an example: we had four K-6 elementary schools, one 7-8 jr high, and one 9-12 high school, as well as a preschool program in another site. Because of some population shifts, the smallest of the 4 schools had gotten smaller, and class sizes were quite lopsided. The usual solution to this problem is to redraw district boundaries to shift kids from the more-crowded to less-crowded buildings. But, of course, this is a math problem, and people who major in education don't do that because they are good at math...

Ok, so then in the spring of 2001 our school board sprung a surprise reorganization plan on us. They were going to reconstitute each of the four K-6 schools into a preK-K, 1-2, 3-4, and 5-6 school, and so all the kids in a particular grade level in the whole district would be together in the same building from preK on, not just from 7th grade on. People were up in arms, and so they delayed the move, then the following year they did a "compromise" of putting preK at one school, having two K-3 schools, and one 4-6 school (which wasn't quite big enough -- two years ago they had to have a 6th grade class on the stage with the curtain closed because they were short one classroom.)

So when this whole thing came up my theory was that this was about math-phobic edu-babble snake-oil salesmen and their latest pitch. Then I sat down and talked to the teachers and realized the real scoop. In our town, there is a certain amount of economic segregation in the residential patterns. When we had four K-6 schools, one of them had 65% of families in poverty, while the other three had 20%-35% in poverty. The one poor school got a disproportionate amount of money and resources -- they had the best principal, a disproportionate number of the best teachers, they got extra money from the state & feds, they had the best building, and the community focused most of their fundraising efforts on this school. But you see, by taking the poor children and spreading them around evenly throughout the district, you got to take all of those extra resources and spend them on all of the kids. (And yes, the teachers came right out and admitted that their motivation was to spread those extra resources more "fairly.") And, most importantly, since up to that time all statistics were collected on a per-school and a per-district basis, you got to hide the poor kids and their poor performance because you no longer had one school sticking out with significantly lower test scores than the other three.

But notice the timing and how they got hoist by their own petard here. My town's education establishment had figured out how to game the previous statistical regime, just in time for NCLB to come by and make it impossible to use desegregation to hide your failing poor and minority kids.


No Child Left Behind (NCLB), as implemented, tests schools, not students. In panic, schools are teaching to the test, not teaching students to think.

Hmmm: "think." Don't you find it odd that, at least in NYS English Language Standards "to think" is hardly mentioned?

Double hmmmm: Don't you find it odder that the classical seven liberal arts first taught people to think (the first three were grammar, logic, and rhetoric) and then had them practice on subjects. In more modern times, as subjects blossomed, schools started teaching subjects and just hoped that students would learn to think.

Triple hmmmm: Teachers, unless they are gifted with the art of teaching, are merely grown up students who don't necessarily understand what they are trying to accomplish.

Except for some wonderfully gifted teachers, much public education is a scam. If you test below average, spend more money. If you test above average, toughen the tests and spend more money. Isn't it at all intriguing that Socrates could accomplish all he did with students gathered around his porch?



The goal with NCLB is for districts to make 'Adequate Yearly Progress' (AYP)

My local school has a plaque in the hall that celebrates its achievement in making progress that is adequate three years in a row.

Adequate - and damn proud of it.


There is a pretty simple explanation for the persistent gap. It isn't income.



Aw. the real problem with NCLB (at least according to one of my grad students who is a teacher) is that not enough money is being spent to give raises and more benefits to teachers. According to her, this will 'enable' teachers to do a better job, especially in Detroit. It seems the whole problem boils down to not enough tax money being shoveled into the pockets of teachers and their unions. The answer is quite simple when you see it.


I don't know if NCLB has been around long enough to make a big difference. I remember when Bush was first running people were talking about how a plan like this has improved literacy standards in Texas and the trick was to see if that kind of success could be seen on a national level.

Math is racist

Blacks from households with incomes over $100,000 and where one of the parents has a graduate degree score lower on the math SAT than Asians and whites from households where neither parent graduated from high school and family income is less than $10,000.


Tom Maguire

Not to suggest that income and book learning abilities might be correlated by some other factor or quotient that can be passed somehow from parent to child. That's been disproven, discredited, denounced and demolished so often it hardly ever rears its ugly head anymore.

Not really fair. Anyone who directly suggests that intelligence and race are correlated is struck down by lightning, but... in various papers I have glanced through on income inequality and its transmisison to the next generation, economists mention all sorts of heritable factors of success (good health, high energy, good looks, probably intelligence) as well as culturally heritable traits (successful parents are morel likely to be educated and emphasize education, to read to their kids, to be able to help with homework, to feed them, provide health care, etc.)

If NCLB is hoping to achieve equality of outcomes (test scores) across income levels, good luck.


So, after all these Billions spent on education are we doing better than we did in 1958? Because the numbers just haven't changed much...

Bruce Hayden
Blacks from households with incomes over $100,000 and where one of the parents has a graduate degree score lower on the math SAT than Asians and whites from households where neither parent graduated from high school and family income is less than $10,000.
Oh, oh. That would imply that Blacks are less capable than Whites. Can't have that. (Just being a bit cynical here).

That said, note that Asians have been subsumed into the White population here. Why would that be? Esp. since my understanding is that Asians, esp. of some ethnic backgrounds, do significantly better than average. Could this be to intentionally bias the White/Black statistics?


If one is looking for equality of outcome one is certainly on a fool's errand. If one, OTOH, is looking to increase base knowledge NCLB is an admirable goal. And if one is trying to equalize opportunity --at least govt provided opportunity--it's also a good idea.


Clarice: If one is looking for equality of outcome one is certainly on a fool's errand.

Bingo. What is important, one student at a time, is to determine what should be next for that particular student and assure, by the end of the school year, that ample progress is made getting there. The result will be different, student to student.

While you are at it, ask yourself whether getting the date of birth of Paul Revere is valuable to know and a necessary prerequisite to a successful life.

richard mcenroe

When folks got on the LA public schools' case a few years ago, the good Democrats of the UTLA were quick to fall back on the "you just can't teach people from those families" argument.


"hereditary meritocracy"
There is a loaded phrase. Why is it such a stunning and slightly unegalitarian notion that stable families produce better social, educational and financial long term outcomes that non-families? This used to be called common sense and the reason that the family structure was the basis for civilation before pst modernism. If the stable family did not promote better outcomes across the board, then something else would have replaced the family long ago.


I do believe that a cultural component does exist in referencing the value of studying and education. Asian cultures are very supportive of education and the hard work necessary to achieve excellence.
With each individual student you start by getting them from A to B and then moving on from there as the ability and motivation of the student presents itself.


A must read: Dorothy Sayers' "Lost tools of learning", a lecture presented at Oxford in, I believe, 1947.


Why is it such a stunning and slightly unegalitarian notion that stable families produce better social, educational and financial long term outcomes that non-families?

Home-schooling -- which is most feasible among "stable" families with traditional division of labor between bread-winners and home-makers -- has drawn the curtain back and exposed the little man running the wizard's smoke and mirror machine. There is no magic required to acheive "acceptable" outcomes. Phonics works. Dolch sight-reading works. Drill works and creative discovery works. Homeschoolers with absolutely no college level education IN the theory and practice of education can educate their kids -- and know that it's just not that hard.

Or expensive.


Interesting. Thanks for the Eduwonk link. As I understand it some achievement problems originate with parental illiteracy and innumeracy, which isn't exactly "income" but would track pretty close with it. This might be one difference with Asian immigrants' achievement for instance.

Richard Aubrey

John McWhorter, in his "Losing The Race" speaks of being a kid in Shaker Heights, OH.
The school system there is well-funded, aggressive with early intervention and the community is affluent, including the blacks.
Yet black kids continue to score poorly, compared to the other kids. He spoke of the anti-intellectual culture.

A later study discovered that black kids there watch twice as much television as their non-black classmates.

Culture, culture, culture.


It doesn't take loads of money to educate kids. My mother attended a two room high school in the middle of a cotton field in the 1940s. They had out houses. Most of the kids were dirt poor.

They also had a principal who didn't take any crap from either students or parents. If students misbehaved, they got taken into his office and left with a sore behind.

Every single member of my mother's class of 12 was a success. More than half were college graduates, and several had higher degrees (including a psychiatrist and a pharmacist). My mother was the valedictorian of her nursing class.

The solution is simple. Get rid of the NEA and stop bowing and scraping to worthless parents. Make the kids behave, and let them know that learning is not an option, it is an expectation. And if they don't follow the rules, kick them out.


Some personal experience. We moved three years ago from a very low performing school district (one of the worst in the county) to a very elite public school district that Newsweek has consistently rated as one of the top one hundred public schools in the United States. My children went from being at the top of their classes in the low performing school district to the top of their classes in the elite district. My oldest daughter, who spent her first 7 years of schooling at the low performing district is number one in her high school class in the elite district. I am not able to detect that there was any disadvantage to my children in attending low performing schools during the formative early years of their education.
My oldest daughter volunteers to tutor children in the elite district who need special help. She gets very frustrated when people talk about an "acheivement" gap in the district. That is because she first hand that the children who need special have significant behavioral problems, and a poor work ethic. They underperform even though they are receiving instruction from the very same teachers who teach their peers who as a group score very high on achievement tests.
So I see my own children doing well in school even though they started off in a low performing school district. I see other students doing poorly even though they attend one of the best school districts in the United States.


Motivation is a key element in a student's success. You can have a student who tests like a dream but has no self-motivation or a desire to achieve. You also have the scenario of an ordinary student whose parents push them-hard to achieve and create an unbelievable amount of pressure on the student just to earn bragging rights for themselves. These helicopter parents are a new phenomenom. Kind of like "stage mothers"


Get the parents involved. If the parents don't stress education, then the kids won't. We've got a generation of lackluster parents raising abysmall kids.


Not really fair. Anyone who directly suggests that intelligence and race are correlated is struck down by lightning,...

Both income inequality and cultural differences are implicated, but part of the "problem" is the cultural biases inherent in the tests used to determine "intelligence". What are we really measuring besides a rough ability to succeed in our culture? A modern american might not do so well in a test measuring savannah survival skills.

It has been "proven" in other contexts that cultural factors can alter "achevement" and "ability". For instance, a small child can make almost all the sounds used in human language, but upon learning a language, a child loses the ability to differentiate certain sounds and the physical ability to even reproduce certain other sounds. A good friend of mine growing up (he was japanese and very smart) used to call me a "riberal fleek".


What do we do with them after we "kick them out"?


Well,TT I know of no place where children are encouraged to develo- skills they will not be using in place of those they will. If you think we should give as much emphasis to tracking lions across the veldt as we do to English literacy and math skills, we are on divergent tracks.

The children in our schools simply have to learn the skills necessary for success here..and society considers that an important value or it wouldn't be footing the bill.



What do we do with them after we "kick them out"?

I would say TT, that's entirely up to them. We live in a free society. The problem with "liberals" is that they think there is a government solution to every problem. I can tell you from experience, that most certainly is not the case.

As anyone who has ever taught can tell you, it only takes a few rotten apples to spoil a classroom, and ruin discipline and attitude. Why waste resources on students who should not, and do not want to be in school, and have parents who do not care? You can not make a person learn--you can just give them the opprotunity. And if thy don't take advantage, and in turn ruin the learning experience for other students, get rid of them.

Unemployment is at historic lows, and there are plenty of jobs that don't require reading and writing. If that's the path they chose, so be it.


cultural biases inherent in the tests ... a modern american might not do so well in savannah survival skills.

The difference between book learning and savannah survival is not cultural "bias". It is hardly surprising or malicious for a book learning culture to value book learning skills. If aptitudes and temperments favorable to such have found their way into nature and/or nuture it's rather important to not devalue them in the interest "fairness".

There probably is no "intelligence" gap between races. Any difference is more likely a diversity factor. Genetic diversity across Africa is greater than on the rest of the planet.

Consider an athletic team composed of the 3 best players from a number of sports; i.e. 3 top players each from baseball, basketball, tennis, football, soccer, hockey, and golf. A second team is composed of the next best 21 baseball players. Call them the Diversity team and the Baseball team respectively. Have them compete at a number of different sports; baseball, basketball, tennis, football, soccer, hockey, golf. One would expect that the Diversity team would have the advantage at all the games except one, baseball. When the game is baseball, the Baseball team has the advantage over the Diversity team EVEN THOUGH the Diversity team has the 3 best baseball players!

At the individual level there is no baseball (book learning) aptitude gap. It's just that in overall there is a statistical difference in the distribution of aptitude. Any particular trait could be more evenly distributed in populations who's culture has been rewarding it for dozens of generations, but culture can not create traits that aren't there.

Florence Schmieg

Many science teachers come from the ranks of students who began as majors in some science (bio, chem, etc.) and couldn't crack it so they reverted to education. Not a good start for improving the nation's science literacy.
Reminds me of why I think journalists are such a sorry lot. A lot of students choose that when they cannot cut it in the harder majors. These are generalizations, but my 18 years as a professor have led to these conclusions.


I recently read an article that said in effect that teachers don't need to be certified. That is just crazy. I've been certified every one of my 30 years in education. Why don't other states have the strict certification process that Ohio has?


what verner is referring to is expulsion which has to be verified and justified before school boards. It's a process. However when it occurs summer school and individual tutoring is available to the student on the taxpayer's dime. Whether or not the student takes advantage of these services depends on how much they and their parents value education. I once had to fail a student because of lack of attendance. When he was there;he was a B-C student. It was the toughest call I ever made. I begged him to come to school but he just didn't.


This issue has been beat to death over the last 50 years and some answers have been identified. Unfortunately, we don't learn from history here either, so each new wave of "experts" have their own biases, so don't confuse them with facts especially when they have a series of acronyms after their names.
Coleman's data in the mid-sixties indentified pretty well an overwhelming correlation between achievement and socio-economic status (SES). His conclusion, however, THAT THERE WAS LITTLE A SCHOOL COULD DO TO INFLUENCE THAT RELATIONSHIP was a major problem. One has to remember that he was hired by Boston to help them avoid desegration in their schools, so that was the conclusion they wanted.
Throughout the 70s, a group of researchers re-examined his data and found a small group of schools included that DID succeed, even with very low SES populations. They set out to identify the characteristics of those schools which were different than the majority of schools who were not performing. Their findings were eventually identified as the Effective Schools Research (Ron Edmonds, et.al.).
Primary among these characteristics was a common belief system among administration, teachers, support staff, parents and community that ALL STUDENTS COULD LEARN WHAT THE BEST STUDENTS COULD LEARN (except a small number of special education students). You cannot blame the students, parents, society, etc, because ALL are part of the problem. The solution begins with the staff accepting that the responsibility for learning rests PRIMARILY WITH THEM, and work from there.
Staff development revolves around examining the school processes against those Effective School correlates and to develop courses of action for adm, teachers, students, parents, etc,etc,etc.
Lots of items in the posts above are included. Some are totally wrong.
It took 10 years, but we took the most at-risk population in the state and turned it around to become one of the top 3 in Phoenix!

If NCLB is hoping to achieve equality of outcomes (test scores) across income levels, good luck.
No, that's not NCLB's stated goal at all. It's stated goal is to ensure that every child has the opportunity to get an adequate education. NCLB does nothing for smart kids (who will get a more-than-adequate education even under the most adverse circumstances) and indeed in real life school systems take resources away from gifted education to fund NCLB. The method that NCLB uses to cause schools to do this is that they require scores to be reported by SES and race, so that schools can no longer hide their poor/minority underachievers by averaging their scores in with the Asian kids.

This is a quite deliberate philosophical choice, and it represents a departure from previous practice. Even the name is evocative -- no child is left behind, but there is nothing one way or another about the children who race ahead. They don't look at the average scores -- they look at the percentage of students who are not performing up to a minimum standard, and then there are consequences if a school shows that they have some systematic problem getting their students up to "adequate."

(One of the main weaknesses of NCLB is that the sort of statistical analysis that they are trying to do only works for bigger sample sizes than they often have. So, for example, an entire non-south rural school district might have 5 hispanic and 8 black students total over all grades. Statistics on such a small number of kids is meaningless. Suppose that the 2 Gomez siblings are doing significantly better than standards, while the 3 Herrera siblings are struggling. So, technically, 60% of the hispanic children are not up to standards, but given that we are talking about 3 siblings who share the same mother who is an alcoholic and they all suffer from FAS, and all of a sudden "60% failing" is obviously nothing to do with the school.)


A government that cannot come to terms with an intransigent union absolutely must come to an agreement because the government cannot close it's doors. Posted by: ed | November 20,
2006 at 11:47 AM The air traffic controllers in Reagan's time wish you were 100% right, ed. There are replacements waiting for almost any job, gummint or private. Old farts like me, who have some education and experience, could fill in if all the incompetent teachers were fired. What's your best guess, Maryrose? 20%?


Larry: if all the incompetent teachers were fired.

Step back for a moment and breathe slowly. It would be wise not to overlook the possibility of incompetent administrators. (There are one or two.) It would be wise not to overlook misdirected curricula. it would be wise not to overlook ambiguous standards. It would be wise not to overlook that there might be a better way than test, test, test.


Posted by: sbw | November 21, 2006 at 12:11 PM I agree, SBW. My comment was in reply to ed's post. Among the items I seldom see addressed: Cost of bussing to achieve/maintain racial integration. Lawdy, I have friends who are drivers, but we could eliminate at least half of those jobs and their attendant costs in order to put a more education money into the classroom. Don't get me started on teaching the test or first grade homework!


As for teachers unions? They are but a minor symptom. I spent six years in SC (and moved partly because my oldest was approaching school age.) SC has no teachers unions, and even if it were not a right-to-work state there is very strong anti-union sentiment, and it's not clear that teachers would vote for a union. And the only question is whether the state's schools are 49th or dead last. (There are those who argue that Mississippi is cooking their statistics in order to claw their way up to 46th and they are really the rightful owners of last place.)

Who needs a union when you own the K-12 state agencies, the state college teacher education programs, and the legislature? In SC right before we fled the state set up a "performance-based funding system" for the state's public colleges. Even in a state particularly rich in self-parody, this was pretty outrageous. Virtually all of the "performance" criteria were vague meaningless edu-babble platitudes. The few that were objectively measurable weren't really measurements of college performance -- for example the SAT scores of incoming students.

The first year the "top rated" school was one of the USC branch campuses. Somehow no one made any connection that about 2 years later this particular campus was again in the news. The director of the graduate education program had a stroke, and then the assistant director died suddenly. USC sent in someone from their main campus education dept to pick up the pieces in the crisis, at which point it was discovered that the program was a complete sham. There were no classes, students weren't even paying tuition, and teachers would get graduate degrees (and automatic raises) just for signing up. This had been going on for 2 decades, and thousands of SC teachers had gotten "degrees" over that time, and not a single one blew the whistle. In fact, many of them seemed honestly outraged that anyone expected them to attend class, read material, take tests, or pay tuition. (Maybe the "top performer" award was based on "efficiency." You can give out degrees very efficiently without requiring any learning.)

The professional values of the education profession have strong strains of anti-intellectualism and victim excuse-mongering. To the extent that the unions are anti-intellectual and trade in excuses, this is just reflecting the values of their members. And it's an attitude which permeates management as well -- all the way up to the state legislators. A disproportionate number of school administrators are failed coaches and lousy gym teachers, because 1/3 of all education degrees are in phys ed, while only about 1/10 of the jobs are there -- and the excess needs to go somewhere and so they go into administration. If I have to take sides between the science classroom teacher union member and the too-dumb-to-be-a-gym-teacher administrator, well, pardon me if I don't automatically think union=bad.


WFT is a European-American? Since I couldn't begin to guess the last one of my ancestors who came from Europe I'm assuming they mean whirte people. Is that too hard to say? Do they think I'd get offended?


whirte people. Is that too hard to say?

I dunno. never heard of whirte people. Howzit pronounced? Are they easily offended?


20% sounds about right. I have a partial solution. In my last year of teaching at a public high school of 3000 kids they had an early retirement buy-out. There was an absolute stampede out the door to grab that perk! Got rid of about 35 teachers and one guy whose accumulated sick days allowed him to take every friday off.


Let's face it, income DOES have a large factor in success. And this is mostly related to this worship we have of Ivy League grads, like they are all some sort of mental giant superhumans. Remember when Harriet Miers was nominiated to the Supreme Court and everyone ridiculed her intelligence? No matter that she graduated top of her class in a math major (generally considered harder than a pre-law degree) and top in law school on a full scholarship. She was considered an imbecile because she didn't garduate from an IVY LEAGUE school.

My esteem of the Ivy League suffered a long time ago. I remember being friends with a girl from highschool and we were basically on par academically. We were both high testers, with similar scores, but both of us were a little slack and did not have stellar grades. The girl was no genius and in fact I was probably a little smarter than she as I tested somewhat better. However, her father and grandfather were Princeton grads and her father made a $50,000 donation to Princeton, and she got in, even with her less than stellar grades. I did not even bother applying to such places and went to a more standard college - decent, but no Ivy League.

What irks me is that for the rest of her life, people will think that girl is some genius and people will always consider me, like Harriet Miers, "average". Even though this has nothing to do with my innate intelligence, but really based on a worship of money and power. Ivy grads are automatically given the top jobs in this country, from entertainment to business, to the Supreme Court, no questions asked- but does that really reflect intelligence, or power? This is how money and class perpetuates itself, and we are all participants in that by our blind worship of the "Ivy League".

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