"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Monday, February 05, 2007

NCLB and Ethnic Cleansing

As more and more schools show up as NIL (needs improvement list), education privatizers have realized another benefit that NCLB designers have papered over with their saccharine lies about leaving no children behind. Just as other examples from Bushworld (Clear Skies, Healthy Forests, etc.), the truth and the policy direction are exactly the opposite: children whose parents cannot move to schools that aren't NIL are left in intensely-segregated testing work camps, while parents with an internet connection to check test scores and the money to put down are buying their homes in places where schools are not yet blacklisted. (What they don't know, of course, is that the vast majority of public schools will be NIL by 2014, unless NCLB is scrapped). The result is an intensification of residential resegregation that moves the racial progess clock back 60 years.

What they don't know, too, (and what Bush Co. does know) is that their children's test scores are linked to their own socioeconomic status, rather than to whether or not the schools they are studiously avoiding are on NILs. From Sunday's WaPo:

. . . .If there is one useful thing that has resulted from No Child Left Behind, it's that for the first time, the government requires schools to track and publish test scores broken down by racial and ethnic group. And the numbers show something interesting: white kids, on average, score about the same in all subjects no matter what school they attend. Education researchers have found that it's not race or ethnicity at all that best predict how a child will perform on a test: it's socioeconomic status.

Research has found that schools have an enormous impact on academic achievement for poor students. But for middle-class kids -- regardless of racial and ethnic background -- schools tend to matter relatively less, because parental influence matters so much more. To take the two extremes, it is hardly surprising that a middle-class child who has been read to often, taken on trips to museums and is surrounded by books and talk of college from an early age will score better on tests than a child living in a crowded apartment with non-English-speaking parents who work multiple jobs, or a child experiencing the often chaotic and hopeless environment of intergenerational poverty.

"Test scores are an indicator. But what are they an indicator of? The education of the parents and the wealth of the community. They're not an indicator of how good the school is," said Gary Orfield, an education researcher with Harvard University's Civil Rights Project. "People move their kids from the inner suburbs to the outer suburbs on the belief that it's going to help their test scores a lot. But being in schools with kids of different backgrounds with low test scores will have no impact on middle-class scores. And it could have a positive impact -- fostering an understanding of society, being able to collaborate effectively across racial and ethnic lines. That's the tragedy." . . . .

What the research shows, too, is the advantage that poor children receive (to the detriment of no one) as a result of economic integration. But that agenda will have to wait until the neo-segregationists are run out of Washington and the state capitals.

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