Saturday, September 6, 2008

Daytonology "Special Comment" on Urban Schools

At first I was suspicious of the YSU study, thinking it was a way of rationalizing low performance, part of the political push-back to discredit performance testing coming from education community, (like the author of the YSU study, but also including teachers unions and such).

Sure, on can apply an adjustment factor to say that urban school districts don’t really suck, considering their circumstances. But the national ACT and SAT tests don’t make these adjustments. Graduates coming out of underperforming, disadvantaged districts also score, on average, below the state averages for ACT and SAT (but, in Dayton’s case, not significantly below).

Yet what I see, using the states’ own “Economic Disadvantaged Students” percentage, and also by median income, is indeed a correlation with low performance, which is exactly what the YSU study says (though there are some outliers in both categories, namely the Columbus and Canton city districts).

And this correlation trumps things like student/teacher ratio, which is also a point made in the YSU study, that other variables don’t correlate.
The comments at the DDN education blog, as well this post at “Polishing the Gem City” talk to this , giving anecdotal evidence how socioeconomic factors might play. Addressing the root causes of lower performance is beyond the scope government, let alone education. How does one improve the “life experience index”, increasing median incomes, lowering child poverty, and reducing the number of single working parents, which might lead to higher proficiency scores?

This would require draconian, politically impossible measures.

Maybe education for disadvantaged students needs to be rethought. Not just adjusting the test scores, which is just a mathematical or statistical adjustment compensating for social and economic factors, but an actual structural or methodological reform on how education happens for disadvantaged students .

What that would be I have no idea

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