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test score gaps and family income, international & US: Fwd: Evidence keeps mounting, being ignored

Good summary and pointed questions. BTW, FairTest compiles annual tables of
SAT scores correlation with family income (
http://www.fairtest.org/university/ACT-SAT). ETS used to even break that out
by race, but the annual data showing low-income whites scored as well as
high-income blacks must have been too embarrassing - they have not reported
that in years. Monty

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: State School News Service <noreply@stateschoolnews.com>
Date: Fri, Sep 18, 2009 at 7:10 AM
Subject: Evidence keeps mounting, being ignored
To: monty@fairtest.org

Friday September 18, 2009
our Mailing List<http://click.icptrack.com/icp/relay.php?r=8787775&msgid=180667&act=TAAX&c=220062&admin=0&destination=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.illinoisschoolnews.com%2Fspuform.htm>
* Evidence keeps mounting, being ignored
By Jim Broadway, Publisher, State School News Service

To relate international comparisons with what is true in Illinois, it is
important to understand that Illinois is very much a microcosm of the United
States. We mirror the nation demographically in a generally reliable sense.
We are just a 5% part, but we are as diverse as the whole in most respects,
good and bad.

Some time back, we reported on the results of the Organization for Economic
Cooperation and Development science test called PISA. There was good news
and bad news for the United States in that academic competition. The
percentage of U.S. students scoring at the highest levels of proficiency was
among the highest of all participating countries.

We have the largest cadre of emerging science
the world.

The bad news was that, on average, U.S. students were mediocre in the same
examination. Our aggregate scores were not even among the top
the 67 nations participating in 2006. The OECD report offered this

"While the mean score is a useful benchmark for the overall performance of
countries, it hides important information on the distribution of performance
in countries. Policy makers of countries with similar mean scores may be
tempted to make similar policy interventions, whereas in fact the countries
may have very different profiles of student performance – one country may
have performance clustered around the average, with relatively smaller
proportions of students at the extremes while another may have relatively
large proportions of students at the lower and upper extremes of the scale.

"In other cases, there are countries with similar percentages of students in
the highest levels of proficiency, but different percentages in the lower
levels. For example, Korea is among the best-performing countries in science
in PISA 2006, in terms of students’ performance, with an average of 522
score points, while the United States performs below the OECD average with a
score of 489. Nevertheless, the United States has a similar percentage of
students at Levels 5 and 6 (9.1%) as Korea (10.3%). The discrepancy in mean
scores between the two countries is partly accounted for by the fact that at
the lower levels of proficiency (that is, below Level 2) the United States
has 24.4% of students, while Korea has 11.2%."

Fast-forward to this month's OECD report called "Education at a
another long (472-page) compilation of educational "indicators" gleaned from
the demographic and economic characteristics of the organization's 30 member
nations. You don't have to read the whole thing, although it is interesting
- even startling - in many ways.

One of the observations you might find most startling is this:

Among the 30 nations, only in Luxembourg do citizens enjoy higher average
family incomes than do citizens of the United States - but only in Poland,
Mexico and Turkey can you find higher rates of poverty than in the United
States. Now, while that incongruity is settling in, think about the
educational "achievement gap" in the U.S., that vexing, seemingly
intractable divide between affluent white and Asian-American students at one
end and high-poverty minority students at the other.

Now, stir in this: Children are awake 5,480 hours per year (assuming 8 hours
per night asleep), but spend only 900 hours (16.42%) of them in the
classroom. Got all that? Income gap, achievement gap, total waking versus
in-school hours gap?

Be patient. We're getting to the point, which is to question the fundamental
underpinning of the No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top, corporate-driven
education "reform" ideology sweeping the nation (and Illinois) that insists
the public schools are solely responsible for the "achievement gap"
evidenced by U.S. students' scores on high stakes tests. By this thinking,
nothing that happens in the other 83.58% of the children's waking hours has
had a causal effect.

In his ongoing EDDRA conversation with educators, Gerald Bracey expresses
amazement that the recent PISA report has been so ignored by the media. The
juxtaposition of U.S. affluence with profound U.S. poverty "ought to be
worth a headline or two," Bracey complained. The report on PISA's latest
international tests should be out in a couple of months. Bracey predicts the
media "will be all over it," and that the correlation between poverty and
test scores will be positive.

Let's look at one more piece of data.

One of the oldest, most trusted assessments of high school students'
learning achievements is the College Board's SAT exam. An interesting thing
about the SAT is that a great deal of demographic information is obtained
from the students who take it. This year, that was more than 1.3 million
students. Among the data included in the most recent report (see Page
related to family income and parental education achievement.

As is always the case, the scores of students segmented by family income
rose from lowest to highest as each segment's average family income
increased. As is always the case, the scores of students segmented by their
parents' level of education attainment rose from lowest to highest as such
attainment by parents increased.

Is Bracey wrong to be bewildered by the media's avoidance of these data and
by the confidence of the non-educators now in charge of education "reform"
that these data do not matter?

What is it about the kids of educated and affluent parents that makes them
so smart? Okay, it's not the money. But it could be the things the money
buys - cultural advantages, travel, parental involvement and discipline
about study, personal computers, positive role models, not to mention
adequate food, medical care and healthier, less stressful and more safe home

There may come a time, a renewal of the spirit of society, a time such as
that when the Preamble to the
the State of Illinois was drafted and ratified by the citizens, when
policymakers' attention will turn again toward the external factors that
educators know affect student learning. Until then, we can race to the top
all we want and when we get there we will be joined by the young people who
were smart enough to choose educated, affluent parents.

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Monty Neill, Ed.D
Deputy Director
15 Court Sq, Ste 820
Boston, MA 02108
857-350-8207; fax 850-357-8209