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Liam Julian

Why is it necessary to measure student behavior by race? Test scores are in this way disaggregated to prevent schools from ignoring struggling low-income and minority students, who in the past were often written-off as beyond hope. (Monitoring test scores by race is still problematic, I think, for lots of reasons, but at least its basic justification is strong.)

But what is the justification for observing in a study that black youngsters do worse with "Essential Life Skills"? Should teachers put extra effort into, I dunno, making sure that their minority pupils are suspended less frequently, making sure that their poor pupils don't act out in class?

I'm not quite sure I understand Liam's objection to my earlier post on the economics of poverty. He says

KIPP and its ilk work for lots of reasons, but it's safe to say that they wouldn't be nearly so successful without committed parents and students and staffs--advantages that most urban schools don't have.

Well, that was my point. Many KIPP schools are better than most urban schools because they alleviate more of the burdens of poverty. There should be more such schools. There are several reasons most urban public schools lack these advantages, but foremost among them is that governments have a near-monopoly on education, and they make all kinds of rules to maintain the status quo, making it difficult for schools like KIPP to peddle their innovative wares in many cities.

As always, I sympathize to some degree with Liam's concerns that schools who "try to do more than they're capable of doing, more than they're designed to do... risk ignoring their most basic function, which is to teach kids."

But ultimately, I'd argue, the level of paternalism a school offers its students should be left to the school to decide, and parents can decide whether or not to send their kids there....

Liam Julian

Coby's post is thought-provoking. At what point does despair negate the effect of incentives?

A small problem with Coby's analysis, though, is that schools cannot, on their own, buff out the dents. KIPP and its ilk work for lots of reasons, but it's safe to say that they wouldn't be nearly so successful without committed parents and students and staffs--advantages that most urban schools don't have.

What's more, when schools try to buff out the dents--try to do more than they're capable of doing, more than they're designed to do--they risk ignoring their most basic function, which is to teach kids.

Liam Julian

Per my earlier post, here's yet another example, from economist Steven Levitt, of statistics being incorrectly interpreted. One could unearth scads of such instances. But Levitt's story involves medicine, and we seem to hear evermore frequently (from writers such as Jerome Groopman and Atul Gawande) that the medical field, long steeped in data, nonetheless still struggles to correctly use the stats it has. The construction of education policies atop data-based foundations is, comparatively, a new idea; ed reformers would be wise to learn from the experience of confused doctors and approach studies and reports with greater humility and skepticism.

Liam Julian

Mike is probably correct that the Wilson and Dilulio textbook is receiving scrutiny and press attention because its authors are conservatives. And no doubt lots of left-leaning texts escape similar inspection. But one wonders how Fordham can defend literature that goes against the scientific consensus on climate change while pillorying literature that goes against the scientific consensus on evolution.

Liam Julian

Trot on over to Eduwonk, where guest blogger J.B. Schramm, Founder and CEO of College Summit, is turning in some substantive posts. He ends each day by pasting excerpts of student admission essays:??

While the importance of research, policy and debate within the education community cannot be overstated, it is also valuable to be reminded of "what it's all about." During our week here, we'd like to conclude each day with an excerpt from a student's college admission essay that he or she developed at one of College Summit's annual summer workshops.

One is immediately struck,??upon reading??these essays (or at least the two so far posted), that the writing is all about suffering???about feeling lost, about feeling burdened, about feeling like an outcast, etc. Quite frankly, the pieces??resemble the weepy and gaggingly emotive memoirs (some true, others not) that clog bookstore shelves.

It can be supposed that College Summit's essay workshops encourage such outpourings???"Write about what stirs you. Admissions committees want to know how you feel."???and pushes students to include as many mentions as possible of themselves as underprivileged and of a different race or culture. But if the goal is to integrate??these young adults into a university setting, does this approach make sense? Might it not simply reinforce the separations College Summit endeavors to degrade?

Update: I should note that universities of course??ask for this type of essay and certainly look favorably upon those??submissions that??fit the mold, so College Summit??doesn't deserve all the...

One would think this topic wouldn't deserve treatment from the Associated Press's national desk???or be picked up in 200 media outlets worldwide (so far). We've known forever that textbooks tend to be sloppy, riddled with errors, and generally banal. And when textbooks are "found" to have a liberal-leaning bias, the "news" is only reported by outlets like the Washington Times. But alas, the American government??textbook in question in today's articles is written by two well-known conservatives (oh, the horror!), James Wilson and John Dilulio. (The fact that these two even got a contract to write a textbook probably should have been news.)

What were their sins? Among other things, they wrote that "science doesn't know how bad the greenhouse effect is" and global warming is "enmeshed in scientific uncertainty." I might quibble with those statements a bit (I am??Leafy Mike after all), but they aren't as out of line as the anti-American screeds that pass for curricular materials in many a U.S. classroom. But alas, conservatism is under fire from all corners right now, so we shouldn't be surprised when the MSM wants to pile it on....

Liam Julian

Seems that not a few people want to punch Britain's Schools Secretary, Ed Balls, in the face.

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