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:
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:
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.