Education and wealth

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Eric tweeted about a thought provoking Washington Post column this morning. Here's my reaction that I emailed to a few co-workers and thought I'd share here:

Passed along from one of my teacher friends: Link

The article is rather thick and takes some concentration to get through, but it's quite interesting. It boils down to a grid of test scores for children based on their family wealth, crossed with the average wealth of the children at their school.

The finding is that while poor school vs. wealthy school generates a half of a standard deviation in test performance, and poor kid vs. wealthy kid also generates a half of a standard deviation difference, the poor kid in the poor school is 1.5 standard deviations from the wealthy kid at the wealthy school.

Of course, the application of the results is all up to one's point of view... but the moral of the story is to send your kids to a wealthy school, regardless of your own personal wealth.

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Does that mean Charles Murray is 1/3 right?

Ok, I have to start working soon, so I don't have time to read the studies cited at the end of the article, but I smell a rat. The article is written in such a way as to suggest that all students begin Kindergarten as some sort of glorious tabula rasa, and if we would just have more mixed-income housing developments, all children would turn out equal.

What the article doesn't address is what it probably says about you if you're a rich kid in a poor school, (Dad owns a liquor store) or conversely a poor kid in a rich school (asian immigrant parents, other transitional strivers). Obvi, these are caricatures, but where you send your kids to school betrays a lot of intentionality, especially when the school doesn't fit household income.