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New York City Achievement Gap Round Robin

Check out these links on the NYC achievement gap dust-up:

1) All Tricks, No Treats: Head over to the National Review Online, where dataman Robert VerBruggen takes a stab at the NYC state achievement gap data. In Has NYC Discovered the Trick for Closing the Achievement Gap?, he writes:
That question has important ramifications for college admissions and affirmative-action policies. The schools claim the answer is yes....as yours truly will further argue in the ridiculously long post after the jump, that doesn't appear to be the case.
2) Madonna Revenge: Achievement gap virgin Mike "Milli" Petrilli argues over at Flypaper that proficiency is what's important, not the continuous achievement gap. I've planned a longer post on why the achievement gap matters, but for now, a few words from "When Measuring Achievement Gaps, Beware the Proficiency Trap:"
The proficiency view, to my mind, is certainly important to consider when we are thinking about building stocks of human capital. But if we are concerned about inequality and social stratification - ensuring that, on average, every demographic and socioeconomic group is equally prepared to compete in higher education and the workplace - relative achievement measured on a continuous scale is what matters, not proficiency rates.
3) More Sorry than Eliot Spitzer: Matthew Tabor won a no-bid contract with the NYC DOE to write David Cantor's letter of apology for denying the public access to data that are rightfully public. Read the whole thing, but here's a taste:
Dear New Yorkers,

This last Sunday I denied a public information request inappropriately. When one is overcome with a bitter, “them vs. us” attitude on top of a penchant for political game-playing and a disinterest in public communication, surely you understand how these things happen.

I think your comment about proficiency being important in building stocks of human capital, but that the relative gap on a continuous scale is more relevant if the concern is social stratification gets to the heart of the different "lenses" people are bringing to the debate.

Business leaders tend to focus on "proficiency," and this is not surprising. The competence of their workforce is a bigger issue for them that its ethnic composition, and, in basic market terms, increasing the number of workers with basic competencies will reduce the cost of competent workers.

This may explain why conservatives who haven't traditionally worried about social stratification but who have recently jumped on the achievement gap as an issue also tend favor the NCLB proficiency-is-everything approach. They are also not particularly worried about the middle class opting out of public schools if they want a focus on more than proficiency -- that's what the market is for.

One the other hand more traditional "liberal" educators tend to look at the continuous scale gap, and to worry about the unintended segregation-inducing effects the extreme focus on proficiency.

I think civil right groups are caught in a bit of a bind. In the short run the focus on proficiency benefits minority students, but in the longer run, the persistence of an overall gap, and the potential for increased tracking and segregation may prove harmful.


If folks want to diminish social stratification the most powerful effect would be to reduce assortative mating.

Getting physicians to marry janitors, teachers marrying fry cooks, lawyers marrying sewer workers, etc would have a powerful effect in exploding social stratification.

"Getting physicians to marry janitors, teachers marrying fry cooks," etc.

Apologies, but I'm not sure who the 'higher' profession is in the teacher/fry cook analogy. I'd pair fry cooks with a group who was a bit further from the bottom of all the aptitude data we've got.

And Eduwonkette, while I was pleased to win that no-bid contract, the check bounced. :(

If folks want to diminish social stratification the most powerful effect would be to reduce assortative mating.

Yet there are significantly less stratified societies than the U.S. that have gotten there without marriage police.

Yet there are significantly less stratified societies than the U.S. that have gotten there without marriage police.

I'd be interesting in reading your thoughts on this matter.

From my review of the literature I see a general model at play - the more freedom people have the greater the degree of stratification that results. I could hook you up with some online applets which model housing stratification by race. Here is one. If only a minority of black people prefer to live in neighborhoods with other black people then the ripple effect of this minority preference, even when whites are held to no preference, results in housing stratification. It's no different with marriage, education, and other facets of life.

The problem that results is that intelligence has a significant degree of heritability, so the greater the stratification in the marriage market, or more accurately, the child conceiving market, the greater the stratification of intelligence throughout society and the task of environmentally trying to correct for the stratification becomes that much more difficult when it is placed squarely on the shoulders of the teacher.

Jay Matthews had it exactly right. Forget the achievement gap and give students the best education they can get.

Comments are now closed for this post.


Recent Comments

  • Diane: Jay Matthews had it exactly right. Forget the achievement gap read more
  • TangoMan: Yet there are significantly less stratified societies than the U.S. read more
  • Rachel: If folks want to diminish social stratification the most powerful read more
  • Matthew K. Tabor: "Getting physicians to marry janitors, teachers marrying fry cooks," etc. read more
  • TangoMan: Rachel, If folks want to diminish social stratification the most read more




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