Author Topic: School choice: what to look at besides test scores/ranking  (Read 4451 times)

ysette9

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School choice: what to look at besides test scores/ranking
« on: August 11, 2016, 12:40:17 PM »
With a 2 year-old we are just starting to dip our toes into the world of investigating school options and deciding where we want her to eventually go. The question seems necessarily complex with the vast disparity between nearby school funding, demographics, and student achievement.

I have been investigating (online) a few schools and seem to find the following trends: school ratings (via GreatSchools.org) and average student test scores are directly correlated with a) the amount of kids receiving free or reduced-priced lunches and 2) the % of English language learners. I also have read that statistically-speaking, my kid is likely to do fine because is a mix of two races that generally achieve well, her parents are financially secure and have high academic achievement themselves, and we are actively involved in her upbringing in a stable home environment. Therefore, setting test scores aside for a moment, what are the key things we should be looking at when evaluating a school, especially at the lower grade levels? I have heard teacher/student ratio is one. What else? The issue is so complex and intimidating and has significant implications for where we will end up living a few years down the road that we want to do this "right".

mm1970

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Re: School choice: what to look at besides test scores/ranking
« Reply #1 on: August 11, 2016, 01:11:37 PM »
With a 2 year-old we are just starting to dip our toes into the world of investigating school options and deciding where we want her to eventually go. The question seems necessarily complex with the vast disparity between nearby school funding, demographics, and student achievement.

I have been investigating (online) a few schools and seem to find the following trends: school ratings (via GreatSchools.org) and average student test scores are directly correlated with a) the amount of kids receiving free or reduced-priced lunches and 2) the % of English language learners. I also have read that statistically-speaking, my kid is likely to do fine because is a mix of two races that generally achieve well, her parents are financially secure and have high academic achievement themselves, and we are actively involved in her upbringing in a stable home environment. Therefore, setting test scores aside for a moment, what are the key things we should be looking at when evaluating a school, especially at the lower grade levels? I have heard teacher/student ratio is one. What else? The issue is so complex and intimidating and has significant implications for where we will end up living a few years down the road that we want to do this "right".

This is a tough one. 
The school we attend is a "4-5" rating because of test scores (aka, free lunch and English learners, 70%).  Plus we are the magnet for developmentally disabled, and they get tested too.
The school next door is a "9" because it is the GATE magnet school and the school white parents transfer into, if they can. (EL/poor: 10%)
The school district we are IN is a 1-2 because of a higher % of free lunch/ English learner students.  (95%)

Our experience is that our son is doing fine in the 70% EL/ poor school.  We opted to stay instead of transferring him to the "9" school (he was selected for GATE, could have transferred him).

The advantage to our school is that he mixes with a lot of students.  Some of the higher ranked schools have a LOT of rich kids, and a lot of kids with the gimmies.  (So and so has an Iphone!)  That sort of thing.
That's also a disadvantage.  Budgets being what they are, a lot of extras (science, phys ed, music, art, computers, field trips, assemblies, classroom supplies) have to be covered by PTA fundraising.

PTA fundraising:
Our school: $60,000 (student body about 500)
"9" school: $600,000 (not exaggerating, they raised $125,000 in the first month)
"1-2" school: they don't have a PTA.  I don't know what they raise.  Not much.  The teachers end up doing most of the fundraising.

I spent 2 years as fundraising PTA VP.  I'm still volunteering.  It's exhausting.  That would be a benefit to going to a school with richer parents, or parents who don't work and fight to volunteer.

Our teachers are great.  They do grouping and "pull outs" from the classes for the advanced students and the students who need more help.  Homework is adjusted to your level.

Student-teacher ratio may vary.  In our public school, it is capped, but for example, kinder can be anywhere from 22 to 29 students - depends greatly on the year and the # of babies born that year.

I'd mostly recommend trying to talk to parents with kids in the various schools.  Talk to teachers in the elem schools and the junior highs. (Junior high teachers have a good sense of the elementary schools.)

La Bibliotecaria Feroz

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Re: School choice: what to look at besides test scores/ranking
« Reply #2 on: August 11, 2016, 03:46:27 PM »
Try to talk to people!

Here's how we chose our neighborhood school: We kept reading mixed things about it, like newspaper articles saying parents hated the new administration (it's a turnaround school), missed the old sense of community, too many teachers had quit, etc.

Then we found an article in one of those little local papers saying glowing things, written by a long-time teacher who was staying at the school. I was like, "That's who I want to talk to!" Found his e-mail on school website, he invited us to observe his classroom. In his opinion, the teachers that left were those that didn't want to develop professionally/deal with the change. His wife had just come to teach there and he had brought his two kids to school there. My mom's a teacher; I know you don't bring your family to a school unless you believe in it.

Our neighborhood school has preschool, which gave us the chance to try it out when the stakes were lower, and THAT let us have the chance to meet people and get involved and whatnot. We're really happy with it and turned down a transfer to a fancy charter school to stay for kindergarten.

tonysemail

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Re: School choice: what to look at besides test scores/ranking
« Reply #3 on: August 11, 2016, 03:57:31 PM »
yeah, i also saw the big disparity in fundraising for the two schools that my kids go to.
IIRC, my daughter's school has something like an 80k budget whereas my son's school has a 290k budget.
it's also interesting how they spend it.
daughter's school spends significantly on community building events and son's school spends almost all of it in the classroom.
so far, i like both schools, but I'm not very picky.
we'll see how that evolves over time and if I grow to like one better.

one thing i found interesting is mandatory donations.
the charter schools required us to sign a paper that says we will donate $625/kid every year.
if you're choosing between charter schools, then they have some educational philosophy that they were founded on.
So the biggest criteria for me was thinking about whether my kids would thrive in that environment.

formerlydivorcedmom

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Re: School choice: what to look at besides test scores/ranking
« Reply #4 on: August 15, 2016, 03:09:50 PM »
We live in a good district overall, but our elementary school has the highest percentage of low-income students and students whose families don't speak English at home.  Its test scores are not the highest in the area, but they are decent.  I LOVE IT for our kids.

As someone said above, the diversity is great.  The kids have friends of all races, religions, and ethnicities.  It's a far cry from the 99% white school I attended.

I recommend looking at the kinds of activities the school has to engage parents.  Our elementary school has a science night, a math night, and a reading night every semester.  These nights have a lot of free activities, and kids are encouraged to bring their parents. 

I was also interested in the "specials".  Check that the library has an actual librarian. (our previous district with decently-rated schools fired all their librarians as a cost-cutting measure and had parents fill in for check-in and check-out.   That helped solidify our decision to move.  A good librarian is worth her weight in gold.)  I also looked at the P.E. curriculum.  My kids actually love P.E.  - their teacher has them into yoga, zumba, Wii dance games, etc. 

You can also check out the other programs that they have.  Ask about GT - even if you don't think your kid will qualify, it helps to know that the school is trying to meet the needs of all of their students.  Some districts/campuses have foreign language programs (ours has a dual English/Spanish curriculum; I didn't enroll my kids in it).

Last but not least, if your child goes to day care, make sure you pick a school that works with your day care of choice.

Good luck!

Lagom

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Re: School choice: what to look at besides test scores/ranking
« Reply #5 on: August 15, 2016, 05:28:29 PM »
People worry too much about this. I am a former high school teacher at a mediocre Chicago school and my wife has taught 3rd grade for 10 years in one of the best public school districts in the Bay Area. We both agree that while we might prefer to send our kids to the latter, we wouldn't stress at all if something like the former was the only option. Highly engaged (but NOT helicopter/tiger) parents makes a much bigger difference than how "good" the school is, as long as it's not truly awful.

GoConfidently

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Re: School choice: what to look at besides test scores/ranking
« Reply #6 on: August 15, 2016, 05:56:51 PM »
Teacher student ratio. Fine arts and athletics opportunities if those are important to you. Retention rate of teachers. Facilities (playground, classrooms, technology, etc). Many school districts publish at least some of their curriculum online. You can look at that to see how rigorous they are, the position on homework, etc. And one thing most people overlook is administration. A good principal can make a school. Find as much as you can on the principal, try to meet with them, and do a school visit if you can.

esq

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Re: School choice: what to look at besides test scores/ranking
« Reply #7 on: August 15, 2016, 08:30:07 PM »
Great advice here.  If you have a choice, look for happy, caring teachers supported by a great principal with low turnover.  Don't sweat the rest, unless for some reason kids with bad behavioral problems are allowed to take up teaching time, (in which case you're not going to have happy teachers).

We didn't have a choice of schools; our kids went to the school we were zoned for.  I did, however, look into the teachers that were available, mostly by talking to friends and other teachers.  My school, when I had a choice, allowed me to choose teachers for my children in certain years.  (Elementary only.)

ysette9

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Re: School choice: what to look at besides test scores/ranking
« Reply #8 on: August 16, 2016, 12:36:31 PM »
I appreciate the input here. What are your thoughts on a "truly horrible" school, aside from metal detectors or violence on the campus or something? One of the two we are considering gets a GreatSchools.org rating of 2/10 or an F, is 80% poor, 68% English language learners, 80% one non-white race.... However, they have the immersion program we are interested in and the published student/teacher ratio is 15 (is that good?). Then again we haven't yet set foot on campus and are just starting to reach out to parents with kids in the school.

I suppose the bottom line is we'll just go investigate for ourselves, but I am curious as to what people think are big red flags.

farmerj

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Re: School choice: what to look at besides test scores/ranking
« Reply #9 on: August 23, 2016, 09:15:43 PM »
>However, they have the immersion program we are interested in

How separate is the immersion program from the rest of the school? I know of a few gifted programs that bus students to a schools in educational wasteland... but students in that programs had no interaction with the locals, not even sharing recess/lunch.

I took a grimmer view and just looked for favorable demographics -  a school pyramid that maximized married parents and minimized free lunches. Unless you have access to inside details that you almost certainly don't have access to, then interpreting the value add of school's test scores vis-a-vis their demographics is extremely difficult, and even there you are stuck with situations where  school X does well, school y is mediocre, but school X has a terrible math curricula and the reason it does well is that desperate parents are sending their kids to Kumon, whereas school Y basically does a decent job.

Indio

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Re: School choice: what to look at besides test scores/ranking
« Reply #10 on: August 23, 2016, 10:06:34 PM »
With kids that will have the advantages your children have, you should look for an elementary school that offers an accelerated learning program. We live in the poor part of a rich town with an elementary school that had modest PTA fundraising compared to 9 other town schools. That never bothered me because kids were early readers and pulled out of classroom for advanced learning where student teacher ratio was 1/8. Science, math, reading are all accelerated courses. Once they tested in, they stayed there for 5 years. It made such a huge difference in education, almost like a private school.
 Keep in mind that home resale value and property taxes might factor in your decision. When the school was renovated 5 yrs ago and updated with latest IT, property values increased 25% almost overnight. There's always more housing demand in good school districts so easy to sell quickly, rather than languishing on market.

SimplyMarvie

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Re: School choice: what to look at besides test scores/ranking
« Reply #11 on: August 24, 2016, 01:21:20 PM »
Find a copy of "The Smartest Kids In The World, and How They Got That Way" in your library. If you can't manage to read the whole book right now, at least flip to the back and look at her checklist for finding good schools with well-preforming classrooms. Go to the schools you are interested in, and look for those things. It really, really helped us crystalize what we want for our kids in terms of experience rather than test scores.

(I actually rather HATE greatschools.com, because I don't think that it tells you much about the actual experience that your kids are going to have in the school. Which matters a whole lot more than the test scores that they come home with.)

CanuckExpat

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Re: School choice: what to look at besides test scores/ranking
« Reply #12 on: August 24, 2016, 04:15:21 PM »
I'd see what's in walking distance of home and go from there :)

aceyou

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Re: School choice: what to look at besides test scores/ranking
« Reply #13 on: August 24, 2016, 08:23:04 PM »
I'd see what's in walking distance of home and go from there :)

+1

firefamily

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Re: School choice: what to look at besides test scores/ranking
« Reply #14 on: August 25, 2016, 04:56:36 PM »
I have done a lot of research on the correlation between school rankings (such as on GreatSchools.org) and actual resulting outcomes for the students, and the only data I have been able to find indicates that there really isn't any such a correlation if you take the same kids and put them in higher or lower ranked schools.  One study was done that took low income students, and an outside source paid to physically move their families into higher income neighborhoods with much higher ranked schools that had much higher average test scores.  It tracked the performance of those students before they moved and several years after they moved to the "better" school, and found no significant change in their performance.  As some others in the thread have mentioned, the higher test scores (whatever those indicate...I think their level of predictability of future success is debatable) at the "better" schools are most likely a result of who the students already were and especially their parents' support at home.  Another study looked at students who moved from a school where they were ranked in the middle of their classes for achievement (they were little fish in a big pond) to a school where they were near the top of their class (big fish in a small pond), which most people would see as a downgrade in schools, and it found that such students actually improved their performance when they "felt smart" compared to classmates.

Overall, I have concluded that test scores and demographic data have little impact on your particular student, and the relationship between ratings and test scores are related the same way that people who sleep in cribs weigh less than people who sleep in beds.  I now feel the same about colleges rankings, after reading a great book by Zac Bisonette called Debt-free U (I think looking for online ratings by past students of individual professors teaching them are worthwhile, though).  I attended a lower ranked university for my undergraduate engineering degree, then a big name university for my master's degree in the same discipline, and found the level of education and teaching and results for me to be far superior at the lower ranked university. 

I am not trying to say that schools don't matter at all, just that ratings and test scores shouldn't carry as much weight as most people thing.  You can certainly visit the school and get a feel for if students and teachers seem to be respectful, responsible and kind, and if teachers have those same qualities along with experience.  A spirit of cooperation and positive attitudes, as well as parent involvement in the school can go a long way.  Your involvement as a parent in your child's education

Psychstache

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Re: School choice: what to look at besides test scores/ranking
« Reply #15 on: August 27, 2016, 12:47:21 AM »
Find out the leadership style of he principal and how they are viewed by their staff. Very important to the culture of a building.

Goldielocks

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Re: School choice: what to look at besides test scores/ranking
« Reply #16 on: August 29, 2016, 10:57:27 AM »
People worry too much about this. I am a former high school teacher at a mediocre Chicago school and my wife has taught 3rd grade for 10 years in one of the best public school districts in the Bay Area. We both agree that while we might prefer to send our kids to the latter, we wouldn't stress at all if something like the former was the only option. Highly engaged (but NOT helicopter/tiger) parents makes a much bigger difference than how "good" the school is, as long as it's not truly awful.

Wow,   with my kids now in highschool, I was going to say similar things.   Look for parents that are active in the school  Look for evidence of rich content PTA meetings, discussing content that matters to you (discussing fundraising for turf, or fundraising for more enrichment programs?)  Meeting minutes are usually posted online somewhere.

We went to a "10" school in california, which had new facilities and huge budget, and it was not much better than a "5" school in another region.   It is all about caring people in and around the school and students that also care.   This comes from a supportive school community and parents.

Then, a immigrant (not hispanic!) school with low scores was evident for lack of parent participation / parental english..  kids allowed to run wild after school, no supervision from parents....  = not good for my kids.

mm1970

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Re: School choice: what to look at besides test scores/ranking
« Reply #17 on: August 29, 2016, 06:58:38 PM »
People worry too much about this. I am a former high school teacher at a mediocre Chicago school and my wife has taught 3rd grade for 10 years in one of the best public school districts in the Bay Area. We both agree that while we might prefer to send our kids to the latter, we wouldn't stress at all if something like the former was the only option. Highly engaged (but NOT helicopter/tiger) parents makes a much bigger difference than how "good" the school is, as long as it's not truly awful.

Wow,   with my kids now in highschool, I was going to say similar things.   Look for parents that are active in the school  Look for evidence of rich content PTA meetings, discussing content that matters to you (discussing fundraising for turf, or fundraising for more enrichment programs?)  Meeting minutes are usually posted online somewhere.

We went to a "10" school in california, which had new facilities and huge budget, and it was not much better than a "5" school in another region.   It is all about caring people in and around the school and students that also care.   This comes from a supportive school community and parents.

Then, a immigrant (not hispanic!) school with low scores was evident for lack of parent participation / parental english..  kids allowed to run wild after school, no supervision from parents....  = not good for my kids.
Good tips here.  Was talking to someone today - our kids hit kindergarten next year.  She said "Well, we are in school X, so need to see what I can do about changing that."  I looked at her and said "That's a GREAT school!  I'm not sure you'd want to change!  Plus, good luck with that."  She said "well, when we bought the house 4 years ago, it was 85% English learner".  I just said "take a look at it, lots of friends go there, it's not even close to that now.  It's changed a LOT in 4 years."

Then again, a friend just transferred her kids out of our school for one with a "better fit".  I can't figure out if 4 years in a school with 50% EL's was too hard, or if she just got tired of volunteering and sucks at saying no.  Whatever.

Beriberi

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Re: School choice: what to look at besides test scores/ranking
« Reply #18 on: August 30, 2016, 08:18:58 PM »
We went from a 10 school in K to a 7 school in 1st - and actually sold our house to move back to the area with the 10.

The 7 school was very bad (not just for us, but for most of the kids, in my opinion). It had suffered recent decline in test scores. My child in school tests just fine, I was not the least bit concerned about this.

However, the school was aggressively trying to bring up test scores.  They eliminated a recess. First graders had a 15 minute break in the morning, and 15 minutes after lunch - and that was all, with a school day that was 8+ hours long. The did not allow kids to play on the playground before school - it made them "too wound up to learn" - they practiced standing in line for the 10 minutes between bus drop off and school start.

In class, the focus was reading and math.  In the semester we were there, there were three art projects (lead by parent volunteers).  There was no social studies or science work, because those are not tested in first grade. Supposedly they were going to get to those things at the end of the year, once the reading and math abilities were stronger.

My daughter made great reading progress and learned to hate math ("why do I have to add 6+6 again?" - she was doing math that she could have done as a 4 year old).  She was crying each day about not wanting to go to school.  We took a big financial hit to sell our house and move, but we have three kids in the pipeline (two are not old enough for school) and could not imagine having a decade at this school.

I now will pay a lot of attention to test scores -- not because I worry that my child can't read at grade level, but because I don't want her part of some big performance improvement plan that saps all the joy out of learning.


tonysemail

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Re: School choice: what to look at besides test scores/ranking
« Reply #19 on: August 31, 2016, 04:00:39 PM »
this came across my news feed today... more food for thought.
https://ww2.kqed.org/news/2016/08/30/two-moms-choose-between-separate-and-unequal-schools-in-oakland/

this reminded me of one resource to draw upon -- local news agencies.
the local area and school district you're looking into may have interesting history or politics involved.

MayDay

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Re: School choice: what to look at besides test scores/ranking
« Reply #20 on: September 01, 2016, 10:28:03 AM »
I struggle mightily with this. 

We are in a lily white rich district.  Why?  Because my son has special needs (ASD) and he gets more in the rich district.  They have the resources to give him more speech, more OT, more PT.  A ELL friend recently almost moved to a less expensive district, and her girls were going to get half the ELL minutes every week compared to our rich district. 

Other bonuses:  Our state test pass rate is 100% so there isn't a huge push to get those scores up.  PTA raises its entire budget basically in one big gala fundraiser, so we aren't constantly scrambling for money. 

Negatives:  loads of drugs at MS/HS level.  Loads of rich kids and keeping up with the Joneses.  No diversity (this one bothers me a lot). 

If it was just my DD, who would thrive anywhere, I would move to the "poor" town next door probably, which has average schools.  OTOH, both my kids are gifted, and I do think being in the rich high achieving district gives them things like daily advanced math pull-out starting in 2nd grade.  The "poor" schools don't have the money for a gifted teacher, they are spending the money on a reading specialist to bring the lower kids up to pass the state tests.  Now, could I as a smart parent provide all that extra math instruction at home?  Absolutely.  But I'd rather the school do it. 

Its complicated.  The best set-ups I have seen are a neighborhood school that pulls in 50% of its population as a STEM magnet (which attracts rich white kids at least everywhere I have lived), and mixes all the kids.  You don't have so many struggling kids that it lowers the overall education quality, and you get a nice pool of rich SAHM's to fund-raise the snot out of the PTA.

Finally:  This chart is spectacular.  The poor district next to us actually does better than our rich one relative to income!  http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2016/04/29/upshot/money-race-and-success-how-your-school-district-compares.html?_r=0

tonysemail

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Re: School choice: what to look at besides test scores/ranking
« Reply #21 on: September 01, 2016, 11:45:47 AM »
Finally:  This chart is spectacular.  The poor district next to us actually does better than our rich one relative to income!  http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2016/04/29/upshot/money-race-and-success-how-your-school-district-compares.html?_r=0

thanks for sharing.  that's a great visualization.
The third chart is the most surprising to me.
Why does an achievement gap persist when family finances are the same?
Perplexing.

mm1970

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Re: School choice: what to look at besides test scores/ranking
« Reply #22 on: September 01, 2016, 04:26:17 PM »
this came across my news feed today... more food for thought.
https://ww2.kqed.org/news/2016/08/30/two-moms-choose-between-separate-and-unequal-schools-in-oakland/

this reminded me of one resource to draw upon -- local news agencies.
the local area and school district you're looking into may have interesting history or politics involved.

Quote
Orfield said middle-class parents shouldn’t be afraid of sending their kids to a high-poverty school. “One of the things that particularly white and Asian families don’t understand is that there is overwhelming evidence that privileged kids don’t lose [in a high-poverty school], because low-income kids are much more affected by school opportunity than middle-class kids,” said Gary Orfield. “You can have one group gain a lot and the other group not lose and win a lot in understanding of society. If done correctly, integration is a very powerful tool.”

I have seen this locally.  In fact, for fun yesterday (yes I am a nerd), I looked up the "Great Schools" rating (which matches the ratings based on the API scores.  Now, CA is not using API scores anymore, but they are still working out the kinks on the new standardized tests).  In any event, it's the best I could do for now.  Generally, you can look up aggregate scores and they will also break them down by demographics, but ONLY if you have *enough* of a particular demographic.  1% White students will not give you a separate score.

I charted the aggregate 1-to-10 rating vs % of students who are English learners, on free/reduced lunch, and by % of population that is Hispanic and % white.  I did this for a number of schools in the 2 local districts, chosen randomly.  I also did a statistical analysis, which isn't terribly necessary when you look at the charts.

In any event, whenever local parents talk about how "good" a school is, what they are *really* saying (or asking) is: "How many white kids? How many Hispanic kids? How many English Learners? How many Poor kids?"  Because the English only kids/ rich kids/ do FINE no matter where they are.  The caveat being...in a school where you cannot look at their scores, because there aren't enough of them, you don't really know.

On the flip side, there is a pretty big difference in how well the EL's do by school.  In our school they do poorly, and the school has been trying to figure out why for a few years now.

esq

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Re: School choice: what to look at besides test scores/ranking
« Reply #23 on: September 02, 2016, 12:24:56 PM »
Finally:  This chart is spectacular.  The poor district next to us actually does better than our rich one relative to income!  http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2016/04/29/upshot/money-race-and-success-how-your-school-district-compares.html?_r=0

thanks for sharing.  that's a great visualization.
The third chart is the most surprising to me.
Why does an achievement gap persist when family finances are the same?
Perplexing.

I will tell you what I think about the third chart.  And you won't see this in the NY Times because it's not politically correct.  I've spent the last 7 years teaching underpriviledged kids and I can tell you what I've seen is that the reason for this gap is because education is not valued as much in the African American and Hispanic communities.    Whether or not there is good reason for this belief (defeatist attitude towards education may or may not be part of it), it is passed on to the kids.  They care as much as the parents care, no matter what class.  It's tragic to see, because where I am, there are smart kids, capable kids who come from broken homes where no one cares whether Johnny does his homework, or helps him read, or encourages him before the horrible high-stakes state testing, or even gives him a decent meal.  You can give these kids an open book test, and they'll still fail (not all of them).  One Social Studies teacher a few years back would tell her students, during the test, the right answers on multiple choice tests, and the kids still got those questions wrong.

I think this is a deep seated cultural belief that extends beyond class levels, which would explain the gap adjusted for income. 



mm1970

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Re: School choice: what to look at besides test scores/ranking
« Reply #24 on: September 06, 2016, 10:21:10 AM »
Quote
the reason for this gap is because education is not valued as much in the African American and Hispanic communities

I'm not a teacher, but culture may come into it.  Our school is mostly Hispanic and our former PTA president is Hispanic.  She has (many times) mentioned culture as being a factor.  Things like:

- Women are not allowed to leave the house in the evening to volunteer.  After work, the men are MEN and can go out with their buddies, the women have to stay home with the kids
- Many of them do not drive anyway
- When kids hit 18, you are OUT - your choices are to move out, or to get a job and help pay the bills.  College is just not an expectation for many

Another friend who is a teacher has made comments about elementary kids being entitled.   She is very clear that their parents are working hard and two jobs, but the kids are spoiled.  That makes me wonder *when* that happens (kindergarteners aren't like this, but many 5th graders are).

So, how much of it is due to culture, or due to the general exhaustion of parents working two manual labor jobs?

You know, outside school - our house is full of books.  We read.  We take our son to baseball. We show him how to experiment with programming.
Other families don't have books.  They go to the park and play soccer.  They don't learn programming.  They don't read.  It's a whole different experience.

tonysemail

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Re: School choice: what to look at besides test scores/ranking
« Reply #25 on: September 08, 2016, 03:38:07 PM »
Find a copy of "The Smartest Kids In The World, and How They Got That Way" in your library. If you can't manage to read the whole book right now

I started reading this and it's a pretty good read.  thanks for the recommendation.