Mike the Mad Biologist

A while ago, I looked at the relationship between poverty and educational test scores in Massachusetts, which, on the whole, performs the best in the U.S. Not surprisingly, as poverty increases, performance decreases. The pattern also holds for science scores on the state exam, the MCAS:

SCI10thgrade2009Slide2

The horizontal axis is the percentage of children in a school who qualify for free lunch, and the vertical axis is the percentage of children who, according to their MCAS scores, are either classified as “Need Improvement” or “Warning/Failing” in science.

The R2–how much of the school to school variation is accounted for by variation in school lunch eligibility–is 0.69, which is a stronger relationship than seen with either the English or math scores. Worse, the slope of the line is 0.88, which means that a one percent increase in school lunch eligibility means the expected percentage of poorly performing students in math increases 0.88%, which is also much higher than either English or math.

ScienceBlogling Greg Laden crunches the numbers for poor cities and finds a similar pattern:

score_on_poverty

Greg adds:

For social science data, that’s pretty damn good. Poverty causes lousy education. It’s working great!

Now, if only we can finally do in the Teachers Unions. That is the last thing keeping us from having a true Peasant Society. Almost there. Keep an eye on Wisconsin….

UPDATE: I just attended a press conference with the DOE marking the release of this report. I and others asked questions about causality and what to do about the low scores. All such questions were responded to with a two-pronged approach: 1) We can’t speak of causality because correlation does not equal causality and 2) We think really cool programs in schools will fix this. A third comment was made as well which is encouraging: The data are available for further study.

I asked the specific question: “Can you say anything about increasing wealth disparity and poverty in general and these low scores.” And of course, they won’t say that. This is a Bush-era study after all. The idea of any link between poverty and education was rejected because the present study did not have that in the sample design.

As I’ve noted many times before, our educational ‘crisis’ is one intimately associated with poor children. Yet our political betters refuse to comprehend that.

Comments

  1. #1 Michael Crichton
    February 25, 2011

    The _obvious_ answer, then, is to get rid of free lunches. That’s the Conservative Way! (/sarcasm)

  2. #2 stripey_cat
    February 25, 2011

    I’m desperately curious about the top-left outlier: is that some sort of weird religious or philosophical school, or a specialist for special educational needs kids, or what? I’d also love to see how that outlier at about 57,5 manages to beat their expectations like that.

  3. #3 anton lubecca
    February 25, 2011

    You say:
    as poverty increases, performance decreases.
    You are brobdingnagially wrong. It’s the other way around.
    Lib-dem like you refuse to accept the reality of the inequalities of man in the face of stringent evidence. The sad consequence of lib-dem mental tiranny is the crumbling down of western civilization. And the first victims of the fall of civilization are the less gifted, those you are putatively defending.
    Strictly, you could be charged of second-degree genocide.
    Sorry, no better news.

  4. #4 joemac53
    February 25, 2011

    I was the Math dept. chair at my (mostly) affluent suburban high school in Mass when MCAS first “counted” towards graduation. We found that the scores were predictors of poverty. We also had a good idea that poverty would predict the scores.
    We were very aggressive about getting extra help for kids before they took the tests, and used some grant money to get one-on-one help afterwards if they failed. The kids who stayed did fine, but I know we lost some along the way. Not drop-outs so much as “squeeze-outs”.

  5. #5 fghjytkyu
    February 25, 2011
  6. #6 Tamara Griesel
    February 25, 2011

    I remember a low income-high score outlier used as an example in my correlation regression class in grad school. It was, in fact, the public school nearest the university, in which many elementary students were the children of low income grad students and postdocs.

  7. #7 jason330
    February 26, 2011

    “The _obvious_ answer, then, is to get rid of free lunches. That’s the Conservative Way!”

    It is nearly impossible to parody conservatives these days. I’m sure that has been floated as a genuine suggestion in some conservative think tank, and is now inching toward a vote in Arizona.

  8. #8 Min
    February 26, 2011

    anton lubecca: “as poverty increases, performance decreases.
    You are brobdingnagially wrong. It’s the other way around.”

    Bad school performance by kids makes their families poorer? Just how does that happen?

  9. #9 David
    February 26, 2011

    anton lubecca is a racist.

  10. #10 Saguaro
    February 26, 2011

    @stripey_cat,
    That school in upper left is some generic Mormon school in Salt Lake City – where population is relatively affluent – but need to actually study Math/Science.

  11. #11 anton lubecca
    February 26, 2011

    I am no racist.
    I am a racialist.
    Big difference.

  12. #12 Ram
    February 26, 2011

    “Bad school performance by kids makes their families poorer? Just how does that happen?”

    What mr. lubecca is trying to say is that these kids come from genetically inferior stock… you know father is a slacker, son is a slacker too.

    but he is not a racist.

  13. #13 fjkyuluy
    February 26, 2011
  14. #14 fghrthrt
    February 27, 2011
  15. #15 Astrology 2011
    February 27, 2011

    Thank you so much

  16. #16 anton lubecca
    March 1, 2011

    Ram, either I am a racist, or I am not a racist.
    What is for certain is that you are a second degree mass murderer.
    You silly christians, convinced of being made at your creator’s image.

  17. #17 Wow
    March 1, 2011

    So what ARE you saying, then?

    Why is your causality seemingly that poorly performing kids make poor families, as opposed to poor families unable to provide as well for the education of their children?

    Or was it unintended to appear that way?

  18. #18 Wow
    March 1, 2011

    “All such questions were responded to with a two-pronged approach: 1) We can’t speak of causality because correlation does not equal causality”

    But we DO have a causality.
    Money made available for a school depends on the wealth of the district.

    OK, if they want to say “we haven’t LOOKED at any causality yet”, then they ought to say this, but we already have a good one, so a follow on question would be “why not?”.

    “and 2) We think really cool programs in schools will fix this.”

    The problem is, if the money isn’t there, what cool programmes can be started?

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