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I received an email from One Pennsylvania/First Suburbs Project of SEPA.  Having spent the majority of my life in an inner city or a "First Suburb," I understand the aim of this group and can clearly see the disinvestment of whole metropolitan regions, like my own.  Well the email included a link to a study funded by the Century Foundation, a Progressive think tank in New York City.

More about the study below the fold:

The study is called "Housing Policy is School Policy" and yes, it resonates with something I’ve long argued:  poor kids given a quality education can and do learn. I’m one of those poor kids who spent three years in a parochial school in the city and 9 years in a First Suburbs public school.  It may be difficult for some who have not had to move up the income ladder in a significant way to deemphasize the role that education plays in economic stability.  I understand that but for me, if it was not for my education, I would still be among the working poor, if not worse.  My mother provided a better education for me than she had.  I’m providing a better education for my kid than I had.  I live in an inner city where the schools graduate about half of the students that enter high school.  There is no learning going on but at a few school that routinely are very selective admissions.  The rest are largely delegated to holding pens until the students either drop-out or graduate having barely learned the basics and certainly not ready for college or with few or any skills that would lead to a job.  So that is my frame of reference.  

Introduction: Montgomery County as an Exemplary Case of Economic Integration (pdf)

"School enrollment patterns are closely tied to residential patterns. In short, housing policy is school policy."
—David Rusk1

Montgomery County, Maryland, operates one of the most acclaimed large public school systems in the United States. ...Two-thirds of its high school students take at least one Advanced Placement course, and the average SAT score in the district greatly exceeds the national average. A recent book has lauded its educational reforms intended to close racial and economic achievement gaps...
Montgomery County also ranks among the top twenty wealthiest counties in the nation, and has done so since its inception in the 1950s. Less than 5 percent of its residents live in poverty, compared to a national rate of 15 percent. Despite the increasing share of low-income students within its school system, a little less than one-third of its approximately 142,000 students qualified for free and reduced-price meals (FARM) in 2010—a ratio that is somewhat lower than the national average (42.9 percent) and far lower than that in most of the largest urban districts such as Los Angeles, Chicago, and New York City, where about three out of every four students qualify.

Montgomery County’s reputation as both an affluent area with good schools and a district that serves low-income students relatively well is firmly established. Much less known is the fact that it operates the nation’s oldest and by far the largest inclusionary zoning program—a policy that requires real estate developers to set aside a portion of the homes they build to be rented or sold at below-market prices. The zoning stipulation has caused the production of more than 12,000 moderately priced homes in the county since 1976. ...

A singular feature of Montgomery County’s zoning policy is that it allows the public housing authority, the Housing Opportunities Commission, to purchase one-third of the inclusionary zoning homes within each subdi¬vision to operate as federally subsidized public housing, thereby allowing households who typically earn incomes below the poverty line to live in afflu¬ent neighborhoods and send their children to schools where the vast majority of students come from families that do not live in poverty. ...Families who occupy the public housing apartments in Montgomery County have an average income of $22,460 as of 2007, making them among the poorest households in the county...

Economic school integration has long been a  model in Montgomery County, Maryland.  I wonder what this would do in my city, where the affluent public schools are closed off to the masses and the magnet schools in city are accessed via standardized test scores.

The Housing Opportunities Commission randomly assigns applicants to the public housing apartments. Since almost all of the county’s elementary schools have neighborhood-based attendance zones, children in public hous¬ing thus are assigned randomly to their elementary schools via the public housing placement process. This feature prevents families’ self-selection into neighborhoods and elementary schools of their choice, which in turn allows for a fair comparison of children in public housing in low-poverty settings to other children in public housing in higher-poverty settings within the county.

Building on the strength of the random assignment of children to schools, I examine the longitudinal school performance from 2001 to 2007 of approximately 850 students in public housing who attended elementary schools and lived in neighborhoods that fell along a spectrum of very-low-poverty to moderate-poverty rates. In brief, I find that over a period of five to seven years, children in public housing who attended the school district’s most-advantaged schools (as measured by either subsidized lunch status or the district’s own criteria) far outperformed in math and reading those chil¬dren in public housing who attended the district’s least-advantaged elemen¬tary schools.

So, there is no oft-quoted "self-selection" bias.  The SUPER ENGAGED PARENTS aren't sending their kids to the better schools.  It is a stroke of luck, a lottery more or less.  I think this makes the results very robust due to the randomness of the assignments to the schools.

Findings from the study:

School-based economic integration effects accrued over time.• After five to seven years, students in public housing who were randomly assigned to low-poverty elementary schools significantly outperformed their peers in public housing who attended moderate-poverty schools in both math and reading. Further, by the end of elementary school, the initial, large achievement gap between children in public housing who attended the district’s most advantaged schools and their non-poor stu¬dents in the district was cut by half for math and one-third for reading.

The academic returns from economic integration diminished as school • poverty levels rose. Children who lived in public housing and attended schools where no more than 20 percent of students qualified for a free or reduced price meal did best, whereas those children in public hous¬ing who attended schools where as many as 35 percent of students who qualified for a free or reduced price meal performed no better aca¬demically over time than public housing children who attended schools where 35 to 85 percent of students qualified for a free or reduced price meal. (Note that fewer than 5 percent of schools had more than 60 percent of students from low-income families, and none had more than 85 percent in any year, making it impossible to compare the effects of low-poverty schools with truly high-poverty schools, where 75 percent to 100 percent of the families are low-income).

...

Housing-related Findings

In Montgomery County, inclusionary zoning integrated children from • highly disadvantaged families into low-poverty neighborhoods and low-poverty schools over the long term. The county’s inclusionary zoning program generally, and its scattered site public housing pro¬gram in particular, have been a highly successful means of expos¬ing low-income persons to low-poverty settings. As of the years in which this study took place, families with school-age children living in public housing had stayed in place for an average of eight years, which resulted in long term exposure of their children to low-poverty settings.

Residential stability improved students’ academic outcomes.• Even though the families living in public housing in Montgomery County earned very low incomes, they stayed in place for longer periods of time than is typical of public families nationally with similar incomes.  Their residential stability was a crucial aspect that allowed their chil¬dren to reap the long run benefits of attending low-poverty schools.

Children in public housing benefited academically from living in low-poverty • neighborhoods, but less than from attending low-poverty schools. There is suggestive evidence that, above and beyond which schools they attended, low-income children who lived in very low poverty neighborhoods (where 0 percent to 5 percent of families live in poverty) experienced modest aca¬demic benefits as compared to those children in public housing who lived in low-poverty neighborhoods (where 5 percent to 10 percent live in poverty). School-based economic integration had about twice as large an effect as neighborhood-based economic integration on low-income children’s academic performance. However, the prevailing low poverty rates within Montgomery County only allowed for a limited test of neighborhood poverty effects.

This last point is important.  It is saying that living in a low poverty  area is LESS important than going to a low poverty school.  Children returning to public housing every day can still do well in school.  We don't have to "eradicate poverty" to achieve significant and positive educational outcomes.  Although, no poverty would be ideal, I believe that until we increase the percentage of children that receive a quality education, we are pissing at windmills.  

In order not to violate Fair Use laws, I will stop there.  Needless to say, if you go on to read the study in full, I want to note that I do not agree with everything the study lists as common theories.  Although, they are common of course, I think there is a more nuanced argument that is missed.

Given a quality education, poor kids can achieve higher educational achievement.  You don’t have to "eradicate poverty" to do so.  And the only truly long term way to "eradicate poverty" is through quality education.

Originally posted to princss6 on Wed Oct 27, 2010 at 07:32 AM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (5+ / 0-)

    the most important factor whether students succeed is not their skincolor or their ZIP code or their parents' income - it is the quality of their teacher

    by princss6 on Wed Oct 27, 2010 at 07:32:18 AM PDT

  •  So, how do you account for the (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    princss6

    results of this study, peer group influence perhaps ?

    •  By the way, (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      princss6

      this study does not prove that there is no self-selection bias, it doesn't even address that issue. Self-selection comes into play when comparing charters with TPS. In my town TPS run buses, charters don't. Charter parents must be willing and able to drive their kids to school; self-selection.

      •  No... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Azazello

        the study states that there is no self-selection bias in the case of these impoverished kids.  Meaning their parents didn't choose for them to go to the good or relatively worse schools, yet kids in better schools did better.

        But let's look at self-selection bias in good school districts where there is no choice.  I think self-selection bias is a fallacy for many reasons, not everyone that wants out, gets out and many self-select back in.  It isn't mutually exclusive.

        the most important factor whether students succeed is not their skincolor or their ZIP code or their parents' income - it is the quality of their teacher

        by princss6 on Wed Oct 27, 2010 at 08:02:58 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Charters.... (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        theran, Futuristic Dreamer, Azazello

        in my city, kids receive either free transportation from the school buses (through middle school) or free transpasses to take public transportation to schools.  This is provided to all kids that live in my city regardless of where they go to school.  My son goes to school in the next county over and the school MUST provide a school bus for him to get back and forth to school.  

        the most important factor whether students succeed is not their skincolor or their ZIP code or their parents' income - it is the quality of their teacher

        by princss6 on Wed Oct 27, 2010 at 08:09:35 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Who pays for the buses ? (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          princss6

          In AZ charters don't have buses, or athletics for that matter. This is one reason they appear to be doing more with less.

          •  They are school district buses.. (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Futuristic Dreamer

            since our city is funded by property and income taxes, presumably if you are a resident you are paying taxes.  So every child that is in 1st through 8th grade that lives more than one mile and a half from their school is entitled to free transportation via district school buses no matter what type of school they go to traditional public, charter public, parochial or private.  Every resident high school student is entitled to a transposs or tokens regardless of what type of school they attend, be it charter, public, parochial or private if they live more than a mile and a half from school.  

            Taxpayers fund this program.  And as I said, my son goes to a private school in the next county (I live really close to the county line) and he is entitled to get transportation to his school via a city school bus.  Now if the school is not in one of the surrounding counties or more than 10 miles outside of the city border, then you are on your own.  This certainly isn't an issue for our public charter schools though.

            the most important factor whether students succeed is not their skincolor or their ZIP code or their parents' income - it is the quality of their teacher

            by princss6 on Wed Oct 27, 2010 at 08:29:56 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

    •  To me... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Azazello

      there are many factors.  Quality education and peer group influence being among many.  I want to caution applying peer group influence too broadly.  Positive peer groups do exist in inner cities, although they may be spread out geographically.  Think of church peer groups.  However, I believe that those positive peer groups will do little (not nil) if there isn't a sound quality education provided.  These people and groups are largely hidden and unseen in inner cities when we view the landscape too broadly and because of their geographic dispersal within the city.  However, if the whole school system is lacking, they may be good and positive kids but still far behind similarly situated peers in the suburbs.  

      the most important factor whether students succeed is not their skincolor or their ZIP code or their parents' income - it is the quality of their teacher

      by princss6 on Wed Oct 27, 2010 at 08:00:28 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  having taught for some years (3+ / 0-)

    I found this to be true years ago, that parental involvement and socio-economic class were great predictors of future success.

    Being the product of a rural area with one of the poorer schools in the state, I found university to be a struggle for me and it is all too easy for someone with external problems to not be able to meet these challenges.

    It is hard to concentrate on a Biology 405 exam when you are mocked by other students for not dressing as well as they do or not participating in the same activities or for not simply being a member of their tribe.

    The wonder is not that disadvantaged youths can and do succeed but that any of them succeed. Years ago in grad school, my Stats prof told me the best indicator of future success is familial success. In other words, those who are wealthy tend to stay wealthy while those who are poor tend to remain poor.

    In examining society it seems not only is this true but that the wealthy generally work to ensure that their offspring remain advantaged even if it means the destruction of competitors.  Going through some of the columns written by various pundits, it is interesting to observe how many of them view themselves as self made but yet have successful parents to provide them a launching pad into society

    •  I've been reading about parental involvement... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Futuristic Dreamer

      it is a vague and broad term and many parents and teachers don't see eye-to-eye on it's meaning.  Many schools don't offer meaningful avenues for involvement.  I also think that many things we define as "parental involvement" have a decided bias towards middle class economic privilege.  For instance, buying books and showing up at school.  These are easiest for middle class parents than lower and working class parents.  

      I'm sorry you were mocked for things beyond your control, yet very happy that you were able to move forward and receive an education!

      Completely agree with you on wealthy standards of survival of the fittest.  I think this is more widespread than just the wealthy class as well.  When you have middle class parents who don't want the "poor or minority kids" in their schools, this is also a way to starve off competition.  

      the most important factor whether students succeed is not their skincolor or their ZIP code or their parents' income - it is the quality of their teacher

      by princss6 on Wed Oct 27, 2010 at 08:07:36 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I don't mean the June Cleaver type (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Futuristic Dreamer, princss6

        of involvement but rather parents who are concerned for their kids' welfare and ensures that they have as much of the basics of life that the parents can provide. It is an abstraction but it is a principle which operates exclusive from the school from my POV

        •  Yes... (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Futuristic Dreamer

          However, I think there are many parents who are doing just as you outlined and are still forced into bad schools.  When those schools fail the kids, it shouldn't be seen as the parents lack of concern for their kids' welfare as too often it is.

          the most important factor whether students succeed is not their skincolor or their ZIP code or their parents' income - it is the quality of their teacher

          by princss6 on Wed Oct 27, 2010 at 08:13:54 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  Tipped for the interesting article, which (0+ / 0-)

    unfortunately I won't have time to read in full until later today or this evening...

    One brief comment first, though, relates to this statement from your diary:

    [The study] resonates with something I’ve long argued:  poor kids given a quality education can and do learn.

    You have stated similar sentiments frequently in teacherken's diaries on education, and I get the sense (please correct me if I'm mistaken) that you feel that such an opinion is in some way an outlier here, is in some way not held in common by most of us who read / comment in the education-oriented diaries here.

    Real stupidity beats artificial intelligence every time. (Terry Pratchett)

    by angry marmot on Wed Oct 27, 2010 at 08:30:47 AM PDT

  •  Wonderful diary! (0+ / 0-)

    I went through mostly MCPS public schools (a few years out of the county), and I remember some of the discussion over the zoning issues there.

    MC is a wealthy and very liberal county full of gov't workers, well served by transit, with many mediumly dense areas within a large county.  Ride On buses co-cover with Metrobuses and the Metro Rail system.  Many treks are pretty manageable.

    The county gov't there runs the schools and libraries as a single unit, and seems to have a fair amount of power to move people and to get regional cooperation.  Also, because the District, Northern VA and Md. have to cooperate in a regional system, intergovernmental thinking actually happens as a norm, if not always easily.  Getting a center city to cooperate with the burbs in other circumstances might not be as easy.  LA?  Philly?  Chicago or Detroit?  I'm not familiar with all of the intergovernmental relations, but I would assume that the big city systems can't just export kids to the burbs because they are run by different local governments.

    So, yes it works in MC because there's a lot of cooperation, good resources, many talented people are drawn to the area as spouses of gov't workers, so the teaching staff is solid, too.

    I think that this kind of economic integration might not work as well in places where the tradition of segregation and white flight and conservatism is far stronger.

    Also, because of the Fed gov't, the basic job base in the region is pretty strong, so there isn't broad based economic hardship that might add to tensions.

    Clearly, getting kids into places where the teachers are responsive, the kid culture is pre-law and pre-Harvard from age 15 months (!!), the parents are pro-active with school plays, donations of supplies, and some general sensitivity is all good.  And even more, the parents don't react by white-fleeing even further out.....

    MCPS still managed some lousy teachers as I went through, but in general you didn't have two lousy teachers in a row in the same subject and so you could recover lost opportunities.

    I think I've come across some discussions of scattered-site public housing that suggest that it's enormously stressful on the families who are scattered.  They don't have great transit access, they are separated from family and the familiar, and many would prefer to be in far closer contact wit support services.  It's really hard to balance all of this but utterly worth finding multiple ways to get through it.

    We should want good schools for all kids regardless of the regional, governmental, and economic issues, and we should find ways to get city-center kids to function well academically even in the center of the city.

    Thanks for pointing out this article, and thanks for your diaries.  As I've said before, you have a really important perspective that needs to be part of the discussion!

    •  unclear about one line above (0+ / 0-)

      "single unit" means the county government, not the schools and libraries as one....  Because the county is a powerful unit, it can benefit from economies of scale.  Smaller gov. units lack this ability to shift resources.

    •  Thanks, Lissa... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Lissa Drake

      you raise some really good points.  I want every kid to be able to go to their neighborhood school and receive a quality education.  Isn't it great that MCPS is getting accolades!  Sounds like a very good district and I can vouch for their students (you)!

      the most important factor whether students succeed is not their skincolor or their ZIP code or their parents' income - it is the quality of their teacher

      by princss6 on Wed Oct 27, 2010 at 05:23:02 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  They started a really nice (0+ / 0-)

        program several years ago to teach reading in kindergarten -- it erased most of the race gap in reading!

        If you can catch the kids before the middle class parenting expectations leap dramatically, and if you can intervene before some of the underperformance attitudes creep in (either from peer pressure or from just finding out that you're already behind at the tender age of 6...), then you can do a whole lot of stuff with kids!

        Early words, less performance pressure, and more early words!

        By the way, I picked up a copy of the Ravitch book and I can say that thus far, she presenting a really really nice overview of education reforms over the years.  The stream of fads over time is half comical and completely tragic as we are still failing kids all over the place.

        What she does nicely so far is to apologize profusely for her embrace of accountability jargon since it just led to low level competence as the basis for our curriculum.

        If you look at the pass scores on state tests they always rise, if you look at the pass scores on the NAEP or on the ACT or SAT, not so great.  What the tests test for doesn't guide a strong curriculum.  And so even if the pass rates are 100%, 100% of nothing is still nothing.

        I think that's a separate issue from the fact that still way too few students can even pass the low level demands of these state tests.  So the race gap is a major issue, but getting all kids to pass tests that don't show more than the most basic concepts isn't really an education victory.  It's better than having half the kids fail, but it still doesn't mean that the h.s. diploma indicates readiness for the next steps in life.

        She does a nice job of running through the kinds of thinking that get people to go all corporate as THE answer, the kinds of political compromises that come from the fights over the content of curriculum.

        When national history standards were proposed some years ago, there were actual content statements and of course Liz Cheney (at that time head of NEH) went ballistic -- over the teaching of civil rights and women....

        So they dumped content standards and went right for test scores on tests with no content.

        Political compromise, quick fix, and dumb fads abound.

        Underlying much of this is a super strong distrust of a teacher's ability to adapt the latest method to a particular class or student.  There was some kind of reading program that seemed successful in NYC (district 2 of Manhattan) (don't have the book in front of me to name the curriculum) and at any rate it was a fairly scripted curriculum in which the teacher's desk has to be positioned just so, and the students have to ask themselves endless meta-questions about what reading strategy they are using at this moment (my younger one got some version of some of this wrt strategies and meta questions) -- scores went up.  Happy days.

        Except that scores went up as the demographics of the district changed and it got even richer and even more white and Asian.  And the race gap remained.

        So much for the method...which of course was exported across the country....

        This reading curriculum allows no teacher autonomy when it's enforced, and it's full of jargon, rigidity, and some really foolish shit.

        I'd definitely recommend a read of her book even if you have a fundamental distrust of her, as I do.

        She seems to be right that testing/accountability has overtaken curriculum and trust of teachers.

        Of course, she herself gave in to a fad, so I'm not going to defend her completely....

        But she is less than comfortable with a lot of methods including constructivism in math (Everyday Math is a constructivist curriculum), and this dumb literacy program the name of which I'm blanking on.

        No quick fixes, it's not a management problem or a lack of testing problem, or any other single problem that could be fixed with a wave of a Race To The Top bundle of money.....

        I would come down on the side of trying much harder to work with the developmental age of the kids (the middle school slide is real), and with setting up early elementary education so that there's no failure, no hardening of "I stink" attitudes, lots of chances to sustain effort and watch projects grow.  When something big comes out of a lot of small things, it's the best ego boost and self-esteem boost ever.

        Watch a kid learn a new music piece -- it starts out unlistenable, and unrecognizable and it becomes music after a while.  It's the best thing there is for kids!

        And I'd like to see more teacher autonomy from scripted curricula, more flexibility for teaching early math and reading, and of course, teachers with subject area degrees and specialization.  I don't really want a reading teacher to teach 3rd grade math, but some third graders still need fewer transitions in the day rather than more, so changing teachers can be difficult.  They can do math/science, and reading/language arts and have 2 teachers a day, along with gym and art....  The goal though is for the teachers to know the material well enough that they can explain the same thing in many many ways, can use insights from every fad curriculum as needed, can "season to taste" which is the most important part of a recipe!

  •  Good diary, but consider this perspective (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Mostel26

    I have read your comments before and am glad to see you write a diary.  I get your frustration, but as a newly retired educator, please consider this perspective.  You always seem to want to blame the school and I would argue it is, in large part, the critical mass of students.  Check around and read blogs written by inner city teachers.  They write about cronic absences, getting cursed at, and not being able to even get in touch with parents.  If  a teacher has only a few students like that, he/she can manage.  But what if most of the class is that way?  
    The other big factor is the free labor schools in wealthier areas get.  There was a time that school had 100% free labor, parents who were willing to back up the school, to make sure that homework got done and their children listened to and respected their teachers.  When I started school, back in the dark ages, my Mom met each of my teachers and told them if I got in trouble in school, I would be in trouble at home. That is what charter and private schools can do, demand 100% cooperation and support from parents.  If they don't they can be "counseled" out and then end up  back in the neighborhood schools.  I have read that over 50% of 5th graders starting KIPP schools in Oakland have dropped out by 8th grade.  To me, that just shows its not the quality of the teaching, it is maintaining an enrollment of students willing to put in the effort.  
    I know I'm late in answering this diary, but I hope Princss6 sees this.  I wanted to ask her about what worked when her son's reading finally clicked.  There is one thing I know about beginning reading, from working in elementary school and from having a smart son who struggled a little with reading at first.  It's an old saying that "girls will read what boys read but boys won't read what girls do."  I think one weakness with many beginning reading programs is a reliance on too much fiction.  Boys are interested in reading about things, girls about relationships (friends).  I know that's a generalization but I've seen it many times. I'm glad we have such an expansion of books for beginner readers.  For my son, it took sports biographies.

  •  One correction (0+ / 0-)

    I meant to state that it was 50% of AA males in the Oakland KIPP that had left by 8th grade.  I'm not sure I'm right on the exact % but I know it was at least that high.

    I was also struck by two bolded headlines in the article you cited.  The one about educational gains decreasing as the % in poverty increased & how residential stability improved a student's educational outcomes.  I think those support my perspective that it is the "critical mass" of students, not the individual teachers, that have the biggest effect on learning.

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