Educational Research I'd Like to See

Discussion in 'General Education' started by Sarge, Jul 31, 2013.

  1. Sarge

    Sarge Enthusiast

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    Jul 31, 2013

    Educational Research I'd Like to See or Why Poverty Doesn't Really Affect School Performance.

    Suppose you teach at a "low performing" inner-city school. Now, imagine going to your school on Back to School Night, Meet the Teacher Night, or whatever they call it where you are, and getting to randomly choose your students from the group of kids who's parents show up for such events. Sure, it's the same demographic in terms of ethnicity, English language level, recent immigrant status, and socio-economics. But any teacher knows darned good and well, that such a class, chosen from that particular group is probably going to have a much higher level of success.

    What I've just demonstrated is exactly what charter schools get to do. Sure, they say that they take kids from the same neighborhood as the "failing" public school. Sure, they can say that their kids are just as poor, just as new to the country, etc. as the public school. But the reality is that as soon as you isolate the parents who have decided to make use of any policy regarding "school choice," you have instantly segregated the students with a strong potential to succeed from those who are at high risk of failure. In other words, the kids who go to the charter school may be poor, but their poverty is probably not affecting their school performance.

    I've spent the nearly 20 years teaching in a very diverse school district. And by diverse, I mean diverse in every way imaginable - ethnicity, socio-econmics, parent education levels, English language level, and first language spoken at home. Each year I literally have kids who's parents probably make six figures sitting next to kids who have recently been homeless. This last year I had kids who had parents with PhD's and kids who had parents who were on the run from the law in the same class.

    Over the years, I've taught some very poor students. Many of those poor students have been very successful. And I've had no shortage either, of students from stable, educated, two-parent households who have not been successful.

    Over the years I've learned a few things about poverty and school performance. And sadly, I don't think there is any "data" to back this up because, well, nobody has actually taken time to actually do the research. So here is my hypothesis and I need somebody with a grant, university tenure, and graduate assistants to go out and prove it.

    Poverty does not hinder school performance.

    I know. I've just committed the biggest act of blasphemy that an advocate for public education can commit. But allow me to explain.

    Poverty does not cause kids to fail in school. But having a parent who is incarcerated does.

    Poverty does not cause kids to fail in school. But only showing up three days a week does.

    Poverty does not cause kids to fail in school. But being introduced to the juvenile justice system at the age of 13 does.

    Poverty does not cause kids to fail in school. But having to move three months due to eviction does.

    Poverty does not cause kids to fail in school. But being six years old and having to call 911 because your mom overdosed does.

    I could go on, and I'm certain that just about any teacher could add to the above list - all things, by that way, that have happened to students in my class at one time or another.

    So then, here is the research they need to do. They need to take a "high performing" school in an affluent community and have it go head to head with a "low performing" school in terms of student achievement. In other words, they need to compare test scores. But wait. They already do that. Right? No brainer. Well, they need to tweak the numbers a bit.

    Say you have 1000 students each at two high schools - one with strong standardized test scores, and one with low test scores. It would be very interesting to compare the scores of the two schools after removing certain subgroups. But I'm not talking about the usual subgroups - race, ethnicity, language, kids on free or reduced lunch. No, the subgroups to remove would be as follows:

    Any student who has an immediate family member who has ever been incarcerated.
    Any student who's family has been evicted from housing in the last three years.
    Any student who has ever been under the supervision of the juvenile justice system.
    Any student with less than 95% attendance.
    Any student who was ever retained in elementary school.
    Any student who has ever been in foster care.

    Keep in mind that you can be a very poor family and not have any of the above characteristics. Also, it's possible to have any one of the above characteristics in spite of being affluent or educated.

    When you compare two dissimilar schools this way, you will reduce the sample size of the high performing school very little, while greatly reducing the sample size of the low performing school. You could end up comparing 950 kids at the affluent school to less than 500 kids at the impoverished school. However, since we're looking at average scores, that should not make a difference.

    The big question is this: How much would comparing two school in such a manner narrow the gap between the two schools? It's my belief that the gap may not disappear entirely, but it would be reduced a great deal.
     
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  3. readingrules12

    readingrules12 Aficionado

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    Jul 31, 2013

    Sarge,

    I live in the state of charter schools. Your argument makes logical sense, but the reality has been a bit different here. The charter schools here are 75% terrible. They are taking any student they can find, and many don't know how to run a school. They are great marketers at getting parents who are less educated to believe their school is superior to the public schools.

    For those who teach at good charter schools, we have some of them here too...many with waiting lists. Those unfortunately are the exception and not the rule.
     
  4. chebrutta

    chebrutta Enthusiast

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    Jul 31, 2013

    At the end of the day, this is what I see:

    Children who have parents who place a high value on education perform well in school, regardless of race or socioeconomic background.

    Children who have parents who place a high value on the students' responsibility for learning perform well in school, regardless of race or socioeconomic background.
     
  5. readingrules12

    readingrules12 Aficionado

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    Cherbutta, you are right. I spent a few years ago, really studying the research out there, and I was interested to find what the #1 thing parents do that make the most difference with their children.

    #1 was that parents had high expectations for their children.
     
  6. EdEd

    EdEd Aficionado

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    Sarge, I think you addressed my exact point I just made on Tyler's recent post about poverty causing reading failure. My main message was that poverty doesn't directly cause academic failure, but does lead to situations which present a risk for it.

    I'd also question some of your conclusions, though, in the same way. For example, you say that having an incarcerated parent causes school failure, but poverty doesn't. I'd say both variables are actually intermediate variables which have an indirect impact on school performance. Having an incarcerated parent, for example, doesn't guarantee emotional distress, fatigue, school absence, inappropriate behavioral role modeling, etc. However, some of THOSE variables may have more of a direct impact on school performance.

    Bottom line is that I think it's important to trace the effects of a particular variable (e.g., poverty, incarcerated parent) as they collaterally impact subsequent variables. The importance is that if we can stop the dominoes from falling, those initial variables may not actually have the undesirable effect they might have initially have, or to the same degree.

    THAT research has been done. We know the effects of stress on academic performance. What we don't know is how various life circumstances (e.g., incarcerated parent) will impact a particular child. It may cause extreme stress with one child, and not another. It may depend on what else is going on.
     
  7. lucybelle

    lucybelle Connoisseur

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    Jul 31, 2013

    It doesn't matter what color you are or where you are from. What matters is the environment in which you grow up.
     
  8. Emily Bronte

    Emily Bronte Groupie

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    Jul 31, 2013

    So, Sarge, are you going to undertake such a research study?
     
  9. TeacherShelly

    TeacherShelly Aficionado

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    Jul 31, 2013

    Well, it still matters what color you are. Kids of color face stereotype threat and sometimes lower expectations (or higher for Asians) than white kids. The environment is huge, though.
     
  10. lucybelle

    lucybelle Connoisseur

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    Jul 31, 2013

    Very true.
     

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