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Tilting at Windmills

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July 24, 2008
By: Kevin Drum

IMPROVING OUR SCHOOLS....Bob Somerby reminds me today to comment on Emily Bazelon's article about school integration in this week's New York Times Magazine. It's basically a review of many decades of research showing that the most important way to improve school performance is to eliminate high concentrations of poverty: other things equal, it turns out that academic achievement for all races shows dramatic gains when the proportion of low-income students in a school falls below 50% or, even better, 40%. This finding, says UCLA education professor Gary Orfield, is "one of the most consistent findings in research on education."

Fine. And much of Bazelon's article is about the efforts of school districts around the country to use various forms of race and class-based integration to keep their schools below the magic 40% barrier. But then, we get the kicker:

Many big cities have a different problem. Simple demographics dictate that they can't really integrate their schools at all, by either race or class. Consider the numbers for Detroit (74 percent low-income students; 91 percent black), Los Angeles (77 percent low-income; 85 percent black and Hispanic), New York City (74 percent; 63 percent), Washington (64 percent; 93 percent), Philadelphia (71 percent; 79 percent), Chicago (74 percent; 88 percent) and Boston (71 percent; 76 percent). In theory, big cities can diversify their schools by class and race by persuading many more middle-class and white parents to choose public school over private school or by combining forces with the well-heeled suburbs that surround them. But short of those developments, big cities are stuck.

There's nothing wrong with writing about the efforts of school districts (most famously, Wake County, NC) to integrate their schools and improve performance. But the elephant in the room is that by far the biggest problem with poverty-stricken schools is in big cities, and in big cities there's simply no way to do this. No amount of busing, magnet schools, charter schools, carrots, sticks, or anything else will reduce the number of low-income students in each school below 40% when the entire school district is 80% low-income.

And yet, we get endless stories about Wake County (I've read at least three or four just in the past couple of years) with virtually no acknowledgment that even if class-based integration works, it's a small-scale solution. Bazelon, to her credit, does mention it, but then immediately drops it to return to the integration story.

I don't know. Maybe it's just too depressing to write about. If the effect of concentrated poverty really is "one of the most consistent findings in research on education," and if there's no plausible way to reduce concentrated poverty in our biggest school districts, then we're stuck. We can play around the edges and make small gains here and there, but in the long run nothing will change. And who wants to write a story like that?

UPDATE: Over at Taking Note, Richard Kahlenberg thinks I'm being too pesimistic:

Urban school district lines are not divinely inspired. They are created by states....And even where school district lines are hard to change, boundaries are not impermeable. An estimated 500,000 students cross school district lines every day to go to school in another district.

....One of the longest standing and most successful urban-suburban transfer programs is in St. Louis, where over the years fully a quarter of the student population has had access to good suburban public schools....Two-way transfer programs can also be highly successful. Hartford, Connecticut's urban-suburban public school choice program prides itself on allowing children to move in both directions. Not only do urban students have a chance to attend high quality suburban schools, there are long waiting lists for white middle class kids to attend urban magnet schools, such Hartford Montessori school.

Point taken. Integration in big cities is a lot harder than in smaller school districts, but it's not impossible to make progress.

Kevin Drum 1:20 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (74)

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Comments

Looks like the only way for the cities to improve their situation is to raise 60% of their students above low income. Anybody working on that?

Posted by: Boolaboola on July 24, 2008 at 1:34 PM | PERMALINK

Nobody wants to talk about inner city school because addressing their problems requires a discussion of poverty in America. A serious discussion of poverty in America strikes at the legitimizing myths of American society. How can such concentrations of deep persistent poverty exist in a classless society? Are we really a meritocracy if poverty prevents children from obtaining a decent education?

So commentators shy away. The tenets of High Broderism must be observed. The existing social order must be legitimized.

Posted by: Adam on July 24, 2008 at 1:39 PM | PERMALINK

Boolaboola: "Looks like the only way for the cities to improve their situation is to raise 60% of their students above low income. Anybody working on that?"

My thoughts exactly. I recommend increasing educational performance.

Posted by: Grumpy on July 24, 2008 at 1:47 PM | PERMALINK

I don't understand how abolishing school districts would help.

Posted by: rusrus on July 24, 2008 at 1:49 PM | PERMALINK

*

Posted by: mhr on July 24, 2008 at 1:50 PM | PERMALINK

"No amount of busing, magnet schools, charter schools, carrots, sticks, or anything else will reduce the number of low-income students in each school below 40% when the entire school district is 80% low-income."

True. But maybe $5.00+ per gallon gasoline might very well help reduce this number...

Posted by: bubba on July 24, 2008 at 1:57 PM | PERMALINK

Looks like the only way for the cities to improve their situation is to raise 60% of their students above low income. Anybody working on that?

I see this argument come up again and again. Is it really the responsibility of the city to care for its citizens? The poor living in cities tend to live there for any number of reasons, but cities provide people without many resources a place where it is easy to access additional resources. Society, not the cities, should bear the main cost of helping the poor get good jobs. This is not to say that cities should not be concerned with helping people move upwards, but to act like it is exclusively their responsibility when there are many other services that cities are struggling to provide is wrong.

Posted by: Jimmy on July 24, 2008 at 2:01 PM | PERMALINK

There are, of course, other conflating factors.

A significant part of the problem -is- cultural. I'm not saying that being poor doesn't put kids at a disadvantage when it comes to learning - it helps to have a whole lot of books in the house, after all - but a determined parent can motivate their children to get an education, and you can get an adequate education even in a fairly crappy school. (Hell, you can get an adequate education without the school at all, if it comes to that.)

But without that motivation from home, it's very difficult for teachers to get a good education to the kids, regardless of the resources at their disposal. That also suggests an explanation for why performance changes radically at a given concentration of poverty. If a student isn't motivated themselves, and their parents don't care if they get an education or not, but most of their peers are from households that insist that their kids get an education, it's going to rub off. On the flip side, a student that is surrounded by lots of other students with a negative attitude, whose parents have no interest in their educational achievement, is going to have a tougher time getting motivated even if their own family wants them to do well.

Posted by: Avatar on July 24, 2008 at 2:11 PM | PERMALINK

Schools are the problem in inner city pathologies because that is where undisciplined students generate more pathology. The solution is to reduce the time students spend in large groups.

Have the students go to school less often, work on their own, and when they go to school, have them attend small homework sessions where the ration of teacher to student is close to 5/1.

The whole concept of large classrooms only works if there are responsible parents at the other end to pursue the real academic concentration. For Blacks, quite frankly, they parents are way too pathological to utilize the large classrooms.

If the government is the parent, then the government has to have less academic and more focus on the student. Either that or shoot them in the street as they go wild.

Posted by: Matt on July 24, 2008 at 2:13 PM | PERMALINK

I graduated from Teaneck High School in the 70's when it was a great school. Teaneck was the first school system in the country to voluntarily integrate the schools with busing. You can read about it in “Triumph in a White Suburb.”

The school system was about 1/3 black when I was there. Yes, virtually all the smartest kids in my class were white but the fact that a black girl decided to graduate a year early had something to do with it.

The town is only slightly blacker than it was 30 years ago but the school system has tipped and the school has very few whites left. The ranking of the school has also dropped. Very few people go to Ivy League schools. Very few rich people in town send their kids to the public schools.

The busing is still there and they do their best to integrate the schools. My kids knew more about Martin Luther King than they knew about any other American.

My point is that there is very little that can be done when the student body doesn’t have enough kids who really want to learn. A magnet school can help those kids but then the rest of the system is even worse off.

Parents like me, vote with their feet and leave for a better school system.

Posted by: neil wilson on July 24, 2008 at 2:14 PM | PERMALINK

Also, what good would abolishing districts do? (Or merely consolidating them, if you wanted to go at it that way.) At the end of the day, there's still the logistical factor. It's much easier for kids to go to school near their homes. It's much harder for them to go to school far from their homes. You're not going to convince wealthy parents that their children need to be bused 25 miles into town for the sake of improving the performance standards of an inner-city school; they will leave the public education system first.

Posted by: Avatar on July 24, 2008 at 2:14 PM | PERMALINK

In order to improve our schools, Republicans will want to abolish poverty measurements.

Posted by: Brojo on July 24, 2008 at 2:21 PM | PERMALINK

Good points, Kevin.

If the federal government really wanted to do something about this, they could pay schools $30,000 for every student they teach who comes from a family below the poverty line, up to 40% of the school population. Combine that with a rule that students below the poverty line can attend any school outside their district that wants them.

I use $30,000 because I think that's the amount of money it would take for suburban schools to take the idea seriously. It might actually take more than that. Schools don't want extra students if they only get their costs covered, especially if those students are more likely to have problems than average. In reality, it would have to be a bit of a sliding scale, perhaps going from a max of $30,000 at or below poverty level down to $15,000 at 1.5 times poverty level.

That would be a lot of money: $200,000,000,000 per year is my estimate, which is about three times the current federal education budget. But it would be money that would go to our schools, so it would result in significant reductions in local and state taxes and a huge easing of those budgets.

Maybe somebody has a better idea.

Posted by: reino on July 24, 2008 at 2:29 PM | PERMALINK

I don't see why you couldn't have a multi-district plan based on economic integration. The Supreme Court has prohibited multi-district remedial racial integration programs, but that doesn't say anything about an economically based plan that isn't designed as a remedy for past segregation but merely as an educational improvement.

Posted by: The Fabulous Mr. Toad on July 24, 2008 at 2:30 PM | PERMALINK
No amount of busing, magnet schools, charter schools, carrots, sticks, or anything else will reduce the number of low-income students in each school below 40% when the entire school district is 80% low-income.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again. The main problem with public education in this country is not a problem, really, with public education. Its a problem with the distribution of wealth; the problems with public education are symptoms.


If the effect of concentrated poverty really is "one of the most consistent findings in research on education," and if there's no plausible way to reduce concentrated poverty in our biggest school districts, then we're stuck.

But why would you operate from the premise that there is no way to reduce concentrated poverty? You won't do it through what is normally thought of as "education policy", but its hardly as if educational issues are the only reason to attack the problem. The issue isn't that the problem is intractable, the issue is that reducing the level or concentration of poverty reduces fear, uncertainty, and desperation in the populace, and there are entrenched, powerful interests that, to maintain their economic and political power, very much don't want that to happen.

Posted by: cmdicely on July 24, 2008 at 2:35 PM | PERMALINK

I live in Chicago and I think we're nearing a tipping point in a lot of the neighborhoods with the Chicago school system. Private schools are becoming out of reach ($30K/yr at some) for even professionals with more than one kid, and the parents (many of whom went to public schools) are realizing that an involved parent group and committed teachers can make the difference where there is that critical mass of concerned parents. Young professionals also don't want to go to the suburbs because of the increasingly nasty commute and high gas prices, so there is a potential to end the flight of this critical constituency.

But the south side is royally and truly screwed. There is no way anybody with $$ is going to move there and it's not going to turn around anytime soon.

Posted by: Buzz on July 24, 2008 at 2:37 PM | PERMALINK

Is it bad to suggest that if we identify one way of helping students, we should go with it and be happy that we've managed to help some? Even if we can't find a way to help that many in the cities just yet, if we can figure out a way to help a lot of others, that seems like a reason to cheer.

Posted by: Brian on July 24, 2008 at 2:45 PM | PERMALINK

If a student isn't motivated themselves, and their parents don't care if they get an education or not, but of their peers are from households that insist that their kids get an education, it's going to rub off. On the flip side, a student that is surrounded by lots of other students with a negative attitude, whose parents have no interest in their educational achievement, is going to have a tougher time getting motivated even if their own family wants them to do well.

It's the rare parent who's indifferent to his or her child's education, but there's a fairly significant number of parents who, having not been successful students themselves, don't know how to help their children succeed in school. Never mind helping the children through problem stories about arrival times & relative speeds of trains heading in opposite directions, many of these parents don't know the first thing about effective study habits. Moreover, a good number of them, having had bad experiences as students, themselves, still possess resentment towards, and even fear of, teachers & administrators, which has the effect of making them absentee, uncooperative, & even hostile when it comes time for parent-teacher conversations. I don't have a solution to this, other than my boilerplate recommendations to parents that they buy their kids bookbags, take TVs out of their bedrooms, clear a study space at the kitchen table, and make sure the kids are there doing something every night. But none of that guarantees anything -- certainly not that those recommendations are even remembered, let alone followed. I'm just sayin'.

Posted by: junebug on July 24, 2008 at 2:54 PM | PERMALINK

It has long been clear, from data like this, that poor educational performance is a socio-economic problem, not a failing of specific school systems or teachers.

Liberals who went along with No Child Left Behind (like Teddy Kennedy) should have known better (and maybe the politicians did), and not have supported the idea that performance could be magically improved by cracking the whip over school administrators and teachers.

And if individual administrator/teacher performance were an issue, why wouldn't giving them all huge salaries do the trick? This is how it's supposed to work for corporate executives.

Posted by: skeptonomist on July 24, 2008 at 3:03 PM | PERMALINK

There is not one thing, nor even three or four things, that will explain the results we get from our public schools. Getting better results is something that requires thoughtful reflection, patience and a determination to succeed. These are not features of our political culture. Therefore, they are not features of the policies that our political culture produces.

Posted by: James E. Powell on July 24, 2008 at 3:09 PM | PERMALINK

I somewhat disagree, Kevin. The single most important way to improve school performance would be a school year of 200 days or longer, per almost all other Western countries. Better teacher pay for the longer year. That said, the type of money this would require would also probably address class-based issues.

Nationalizing school systems rather than balkanized local/state standards.

In other words, part of the problem with NCLB, besides its well-attested other problems, is taht it doesn't go far enough.

Posted by: SocraticGadfly on July 24, 2008 at 3:23 PM | PERMALINK

So, what’s needed, then, is more public housing in suburbs. Kevin despairs of class-based redistribution. Except for the rich of both “libera” and “conservative” persuasions who will dodge it, I think Kevin’s too pessimistic.

With high gas prices, middle-class flight is going to slow down more; it may even reverse in some cases.

Posted by: SocraticGadfly on July 24, 2008 at 4:17 PM | PERMALINK

I work in a large urban school system. I've been part of a number of studies that look at this. Poverty - and race, both, are highly associated with poor performance. Racial isolation hurts kids of color. Poverty accounts for about two-thirds of the variance of student achievement. But when a classroom is above 67% poverty, learning really takes a big hit. (Gary Orfield, whom I'm surprised is not mentioned here, found this in Detroit in 1990, and a study I was part on in 2000 found the same thing in our urban school district.)

Middle class America doesn't want their kids in with poor kids. That is a tough one, eh?

Answers? Well, a couple . . .

Quality Pre-K

Developmentally appropriate kindergarten and early grades, with emphasis on motor skills

Higher quality teaching

An extended school year; better after-school programs

Stop pretending that student and school performance are one in the same. NCLB and state accountability systems have backed themselves into one heck of a corner, where high performing schools serving kids in poverty are punished, while mediocre schools serving upper-middle class kids, just coasting on their parents' high incomes are rewarded. That's about to crash. I hope the good things about NCLB are preserved.

Posted by: maxgowan on July 24, 2008 at 4:17 PM | PERMALINK
So, what’s needed, then, is more public housing in suburbs.

Public housing in places where you can't walk any place of shopping or employment and that have abysmal public transit would seem to have its own drawbacks. Its not just housing that's more expensive in the suburbs, you've got to get to and from the housing as well.

Seems to me the best way to address the concentration of poverty is to address its prevalence.

Posted by: cmdicely on July 24, 2008 at 4:34 PM | PERMALINK

Another suggestion as to what might be needed is higher starting pay for new teachers. Not necessarily higher pay across the board, but much higher starting pay, to allow schools to recruit better from those graduating form college, placing them on more of an equal footing with other professions.

Posted by: bubba on July 24, 2008 at 4:40 PM | PERMALINK

There are rural districts with high % poverty as well.

Generally people just want to nuke them and make those students travel even further to get to a richer school...

I can't say I support that. But what to do about the students who are mired in poverty, I'm not sure the solution is in the school.

Posted by: Crissa on July 24, 2008 at 4:43 PM | PERMALINK

"if there's no plausible way to reduce concentrated poverty in our biggest school districts, then we're stuck."

NO
The key is to find out why poverty drags down performance. If poor kids sitting next do rich kids do better in school than poor next to poor, why is that?
You may not be able to cure poverty but answering that question will go a long way to addressing the problems in the article.

Posted by: yep on July 24, 2008 at 4:45 PM | PERMALINK

It's been done. Just google "the three million word gap" for starters. Middle class, upper middle class and rich kids are in better shape in just about every domain. No mystery.

Posted by: maxgowan on July 24, 2008 at 4:48 PM | PERMALINK

The single most important way to improve school performance would be a school year of 200 days or longer, per almost all other Western countries.

Um, unless you think the public school system has it exactly right as things are right now, spending more time doing something the exact same way you've always been doing it won't get you better results. The problem isn't seat-time. The problem is grinding poverty, which increased seat-time does nothing to remedy.

Better teacher pay for the longer year. That said, the type of money this would require would also probably address class-based issues.

How does paying teachers more money to work with students who remain mired in the exact same poverty they've always been in do anything to address class-based issues? If you're talking about spending those additional monies on things like teacher training & increased resources (like capital improvements, books, manipulatives, and computer hardware & software) then that gets you a big maybe, depending on the quality & relevance of those resources to the needs of any given school or district. The kids will still go home to the exact same parents in the exact same apartments in the exact same neighborhoods with the exact same poverty-related issues they always had.

Nationalizing school systems rather than balkanized local/state standards.

Because of the government's proven ability to manage huge bureaucracies? Because the mandates of NCLB have worked so well thus far?

In other words, part of the problem with NCLB, besides its well-attested other problems, is taht it doesn't go far enough.

If your point is that the problem is unfunded mandates, then say so. But beyond that, exactly how far do you want the federal government to go in determining what happens in the third grade classroom in your local public school?

So, what’s needed, then, is more public housing in suburbs.

Because the jobs they haven't been able to find in the city are waiting for them in the suburbs? Because those who already have jobs in the city are going to be able to fork over the time & money it's going to take them to commute to & from those jobs? Because the folks who live in the suburbs now won't pack up & leave those communities because they don't want to live among the endemic problems associated with the public counseling system as its run? Seriously, man, how many things are you doing at the same time when you type this shit?

Posted by: junebug on July 24, 2008 at 4:54 PM | PERMALINK

Errr... public housing, not public counseling. I don't need to go inventing any more harebrained programs than the government already has going.

Posted by: junebug on July 24, 2008 at 5:02 PM | PERMALINK

Poverty is a symptom, not a cause. The problem is, liberals tend to be the ones who shy away from serious/honest discussions. The core issue isn't better teacher pay, school length, money spent on schools, etc. It's culture. Show me one example where any of those solutions have worked. Kevin is right - nothing has worked. And there are plenty of examples where integration has failed - Shaker Heights, Nyack. A recent CNN program showcased a new generation of African-American leaders who are implementing a variety of innovative programs, whether it's pay-based performance, or team-based approaches to learning. I believe that's where the answer lies - the old black/white leadership, and the old methods has failed. I believe we need to look to the new generation of black leaders to show the way.

Posted by: Andy on July 24, 2008 at 5:03 PM | PERMALINK

I've said it before, and I'll say it again. The main problem with public education in this country is not a problem, really, with public education. Its a problem with the distribution of wealth; the problems with public education are symptoms.
Posted by: cmdicely

Agreed.

Posted by: Jeff II on July 24, 2008 at 5:08 PM | PERMALINK

Max, thanks for the insider support for extended school year.

My thinking is that, in addition to getting to where other Western countries are at on that, it gets kids in poverty situations out of an unstable environment for an additional 3-6 weeks a year.

Posted by: SocraticGadfly on July 24, 2008 at 5:10 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin: "We can play around the edges and make small gains here and there, but in the long run nothing will change."

There is a plausible way to "reduce concentrated poverty in our biggest school districts": Drastically change the ratio of affluent to poor immigrants in our immigration flow.

Given our current immigration flow, it is also wrong to say that "in the long run nothing will change". In fact, things will get worse as the percentage of hispanic children (since their parents are disproportionately poor) rises. Already whites + asians are only about 60% of births and dropping (whites dropping faster than asians rising). Even something as absurd as cross-country flights plus abolishing all private schools and homeschooling will soon be inadequate to integrate america's black and hispanic children into majority white/asian schools. But we can mitigate the change in that direction by permitting less hispanic immigration.

Ignoring immigration and saying we have no control is completely false.

Posted by: scottynx on July 24, 2008 at 5:22 PM | PERMALINK

You're only thinking inside the box. Read William R. George's The Junior Republic if you can find it (written in the late 19th century).

Here's the short of it: Pay the students for superior performance. Their families rise above your magic 40% and this is the same incentive that has worked on adults since time immemorial. Why do people act as if a 14 year old is some different creature than a 20 year old? If you went to work every day and returned to an impoverished home at the end of it and they didn't pay you for your labor --- are you telling me you'd really work as hard as you could? Wasn't that the problem with Russia's communism?

Posted by: catherineD on July 24, 2008 at 5:25 PM | PERMALINK
There is a plausible way to "reduce concentrated poverty in our biggest school districts": Drastically change the ratio of affluent to poor immigrants in our immigration flow.

One (of many) reasons I suggest letting legally-eligible immigrants pay an additional, substantial fee to come in outside of the quota system.

Yet somehow the people that pretend not to like "illegal" immigration, or the preponderance of "unskilled" immigrants, but who pretend to have no problems with immigration or immigrants in general don't like that idea.

Posted by: cmdicely on July 24, 2008 at 5:35 PM | PERMALINK

ain't

Students who are hungry and economically distracted by material humiliation and the bling black markets provide will not be helped by educational schemes that emphasize rewards to teachers and school districts. What these students need is their families to have higher incomes, which stabilize living conditions and family life.

Where I live there is currently a drive for donations of school supplies so that poor students in impoverished school districts will have enough pencils and paper. Our society has deemed these students unworthy to even provide them with the most rudimentary of educational supplies, so it should not be surprising that these children learn at a very young age that they are not good enough to participate in the prosperity that they see all aroung them.

Posted by: Brojo on July 24, 2008 at 5:47 PM | PERMALINK

...many decades of research showing that the most important way to improve school performance is to eliminate high concentrations of poverty
Doesn't this show that poor people are on average stupider and less likely to read books than rich people? Seems like they started with a PC conclusion and reinforced it with the data.

Posted by: on July 24, 2008 at 6:20 PM | PERMALINK

Or acknowledge that education performance is primarily about parenting and that no non-residential school can teach kids who are unwilling or unable to learn.

Poverty is a part of the equation, but in most instances, extreme poverty (as opposed to working/middle classes sinking during hard times) is a function of a greater social/personal malaise.

I have to agree with right wing nutjobs on this - when you have a society where the poorest and the least socially adept also have the highest reproduction rate and no evidence of cross generation improvement, this society is f&cked. Unlike right wing nutjobs, I have no solution for this problem except to stop procreating myself, so that at least my offsprings don't have to deal this decline.

Posted by: anon on July 24, 2008 at 6:25 PM | PERMALINK

There is some research to show that lengthening the school year decreases the achievement gap. Wealthier students stay where they're at or advance over the Summer, since they read and spend time around educated people. Poor students decline over the Summer.

Posted by: reino on July 24, 2008 at 6:46 PM | PERMALINK

By the age of three, a welfare-poor child has one half the vocabulary of a lower middle class three-year old, and one-third the vocabulary of an upper-middle class child. In the urban district I work in, 43% of the parents of our incoming kindergarteners did not initially finish high school (17% did get their GED, but they did not initially finish high school - a key socioeconomic indicator).

So of course poverty is a huge factor, rural and urban.

As for "seat time," sure, don't give 'em mediocre additional seat time. But want to bet what the data shows when they are given high-quality additional time? Same is true with quality tutoring. And since the average high schooler in my urban district misses on average a month and a half of school . . . well, you can see where this is going.

The real issue for schools serving kids in poverty is the proportion of them who get their fair shot at the American Dream, and escape the cycle of poverty. I can attest the urban district I work in had a semi-decent record on that (a study I was part of - when we statistically controlled for poverty we outperformed half of the upper-middle class districts in our otherwise wealthy county); but we obviously need to do better. In our case, there will never be a substitute for superior teaching and curriculum.

There is only so much a school can do with the base of 180 days, times 6 hours of instruction, as a base. That rest of the village that I keep hearing about needs to do their part.

People here are entitled to their own opinions but not their own facts.

Posted by: maxgowan on July 24, 2008 at 6:51 PM | PERMALINK

As for "seat time," sure, don't give 'em mediocre additional seat time. But want to bet what the data shows when they are given high-quality additional time? Same is true with quality tutoring.

Naturally. But if the regular classroom time is already high-quality, then those students aren't in a hole to begin with. More of the same is helpful only when "the same" is, at the very least, quality.

And since the average high schooler in my urban district misses on average a month and a half of school . . . well, you can see where this is going.

But then this isn't additional seat-time. This is just replacing lost seat-time. And of course this additional high-quality instruction will prove valuable, but if attendance was a problem during the regular school year, then there's no reason to think that the problem won't continue throughout an extended school year. This doesn't mean these things shouldn't be pursued. My point is against the idea that a longer school year (an idea that gets tossed around quite a bit), in & of itself, solves the problem.

Posted by: junebug on July 24, 2008 at 7:15 PM | PERMALINK
Poverty is a part of the equation, but in most instances, extreme poverty (as opposed to working/middle classes sinking during hard times) is a function of a greater social/personal malaise.

If by "part" you mean "both a cause and an effect of", yes, poverty is, currently, highly cyclical, and both a stem and consequence of a variety of other problems.

But if you are trying to muddy the problem to make it seem insoluble, I would suggest that insofar as your statement is accurate, it fails to do that; what is needed to address the causal links between other problems and poverty, and those between poverty and those other problems, so as to break the cycle.

Universal, comprehensive healthcare is one of attacking some parts of both of those components of the cycle, though far from the only thing useful and desirable in that regard.

There are some things within the school system that can be done, too (assuring adequate supplies for all students, for one; the proposals others have made for lengthing the school year and/or school day may be useful,as well).

There are elements of tax and other economic policy that are necessary, as well.

Its not a simply problem, because it has many components, and they need to be addressed in parallel. But neither is it a problem that is impossible to analyze and mitigate.

Posted by: cmdicely on July 24, 2008 at 7:46 PM | PERMALINK
Doesn't this show that poor people are on average stupider and less likely to read books than rich people?

Not stupider. Having (as children) less educated parents who are therefore less likely, however much they value education, to have the skills to be as effective in supporting it, including providing students a home environment in which they will learn to want to read, sure. Being (as adults) less educated and less likely to read books, certainly.

Posted by: cmdicely on July 24, 2008 at 7:50 PM | PERMALINK

I have to agree with right wing nutjobs on this - when you have a society where the poorest and the least socially adept also have the highest reproduction rate and no evidence of cross generation improvement, this society is f&cked (sic). Posted by: anon

While this may be true (I think the highest reproductive rates are actually among recent immigrant poor and not the native poor), it is part and parcel of being poor and poorly educated. Reduce the poverty and increase education levels, and unplanned pregnancies always go down. Otherwise, it's a reinforcing cycle.

That being said, Reagan's armies of "welfare queens" was never true. Just shitty wingnut talking points.

Posted by: Jeff II on July 24, 2008 at 8:05 PM | PERMALINK

Teacher quality varies. This variability matters less for middle class kids than kids in poverty. Here are some other data points.

Middle class kids have buffers that poor kids don't. Even middle class kids, by some studies, lose a tenth of a standard deviation of IQ points over the summer. (I've seen other, credible studies where middle class kids gain in reading and lose in math over the summer.) I've worked on evaluations that reveal that Pre-K - go - K kids lose over the summer half of what they gain in Pre-K, that boys of color are one year behind white girls (and not much different from Latino and Black girls), by the end of kindergarten. (In the early grades we see far greater gender differences in performance than racial or ethnic differences.)

Two consecutive years of poor teaching is slightly harmful to middle class kids - but it takes kids in poverty right out of the game. (This fact has been replicated in education research.)

The data about urban kids in poverty is beyond dispute, with respect to needing more instructional time. No one seriously wants same-old-same-old. But a huge proportion of kids are behind academically and have been since kindergarten.

In cases of extreme poverty (as I'd mentioned earlier, over 67% poverty at the classroom level) drags higher performing kids down. "Declining high achievers" is what we call this. It's a non-trivial size cluster of kids, too.

On a more positive note: Inner city kids smoke less tobacco, drink less alcohol, smoke less pot, consume fewer drugs, engage in less risky behavior and less delinquent behavior then their suburban and rural counterparts. In some studies, inner city kids are somewhat more sexually active, by 3% -4% over suburban and rural kids. (Other studies conclude the rates of sexual activity are pretty much the same.)

If you have better data, please provide. As the saying in my profession goes, "Without data, you are just another person with an opinion."

Posted by: maxgowan on July 24, 2008 at 8:20 PM | PERMALINK

The problem is that suburban school systems do not want inner city kids in their schools. They bring test scores down, and are the source of a lot of behavior problems. Sad but true.

Posted by: mollycoddle on July 24, 2008 at 9:04 PM | PERMALINK

Exactly true, mollycoddle.

Point of clarification: By the end of K, Black and Latino girls are at or near at the performance point of white girls. The data that I've seen indicates this varies, year-to-year, but not by much. White boys are in the middle (varies), boys of color - Latino and Black, are consistently the farthest behind - even at 3 and 4 years old. And of course, we're looking at 80%, 90% and higher poverty with this group.

Posted by: maxgowan on July 24, 2008 at 9:09 PM | PERMALINK

I have seen-and this is just anecdotal, based on my experience in classrooms-is that when a child enters a good preschool program by the age of 3, assuming about average intelligence, and when this child remains in that program for at least 2 years, there is an enormous improvement in language, conversational skills, pragmatic skills, etc.

When a child with poor language skills enters that same program at age 4, he or she usually learns just enough to miss qualifying for any help in kindergarten. Because the cut-off is so low(70), a child with an IQ of 80 and combined receptive/expressive language skills of 78 or so will not qualify for an IEP. But they do not have the skills to do well in kindergarten.

Many of us in our program have noticed this. I do think that it is key to get kids into good programs very early. But when so many of their family situations are...bad, it is difficult to continue to see progress.

I haven't seen anyone mention the emotional baggage carried by these kids, even at very young ages-but it is a real problem, too.

Posted by: mollycoddle on July 24, 2008 at 9:23 PM | PERMALINK

The data on two years of Pre-K has been ambiguous, although there is a brand new study concluding it's very effective. One size does not fit all. We also see high achieving K kids who never went to a Pre-K but were obviously with a well educated parent figure.

In our urban school system, 27% of the entering Pre-K kids have experienced the loss of a close family member. Anywhere from 10% - 16% have multiple social-emotional problems (nearly half improve with a third significantly improve.

About 30% of entering Pre-K and 20% of entering K have never been to a dentist. One telling differene between an urban school educating kids in poverty, versus a typical middle and upper-middle class school - look at the middle school kids. Look at who is wearing braces.

Other health issues include asthma, obesity, Type II diabetes associated with obesity; high lead levels and other heavy metals; and of course that favorite, health insurance. Also, about 10% have some physical condition which limits their activities.

It will be interesting to see how these new growth models in school accountability play themselves out in the coming half-decade. It could dramatically re-order the accountability deck, so to speak.

Posted by: maxgowan on July 24, 2008 at 10:13 PM | PERMALINK

@ Junebug
"It's the rare parent who's indifferent to his or her child's education, but there's a fairly significant number of parents who, having not been successful students themselves, don't know how to help their children succeed in school. Never mind helping the children through problem stories about arrival times & relative speeds of trains heading in opposite directions, many of these parents don't know the first thing about effective study habits. Moreover, a good number of them, having had bad experiences as students, themselves, still possess resentment towards, and even fear of, teachers & administrators, which has the effect of making them absentee, uncooperative, & even hostile when it comes time for parent-teacher conversations".

You are my new hero! This is exactly what I say to the group I belong to. We are trying to bring “community” into the schools. One of the things I always hear is that the parents don’t care. It makes me crazy. And I tell them essentially what you have said. Well, I’m not quite as articulate as you, so can I steal your message?

We need to bring the parents and community into education. It’s not easy. The teachers and administration are strapped by NCLB. The administration is on a power trip. The teachers if they have any ideas can’t implement them without jeopardizing their jobs or their status with their peers or the administration.

We need to give teachers more leeway, more power in their classrooms. We need to bring the community into education. We need to let the parents in. Let them know we care about their children and them. Listen to what they say, even if they are HS dropouts. These people are not stupid. They love their children just like their parents loved them. Open the door. Go to their homes and talk to them. You will see and learn. I did it and they proved me right.

Posted by: eloise on July 24, 2008 at 10:43 PM | PERMALINK

The data about urban kids in poverty is beyond dispute, with respect to needing more instructional time. No one seriously wants same-old-same-old. But a huge proportion of kids are behind academically and have been since kindergarten.

I'm not sure if this is directed to me, max, but if it is, it's pretty clear that we're talking past one another. I'm not disputing the fact that they need more instructional time. My point is that they need quality instruction time -- and year-round, not just during the summer months. If the instructional time they're getting isn't doing it for them during the traditional year (and for most of them, it's not -- for data, check the NAEP results of *any* of the school districts in the cities Kevin lists in his post), getting more of the same in the summer months won't do much for them. Certainly not what it needs to. Whatever fraction of a stanine kids in poverty lose over the summer relative to peers in summer school is small beer when considered against the fact that they're not making gains -- or significant enough gains -- from late August-early June. Is it better than running the streets during summer months, when underserved urban communities see their levels of violence spike (à la Socratic Gadfly's comment)? No question. But then it's more babysitting than it is remediation -- or certainly enrichment.

Posted by: junebug on July 24, 2008 at 11:56 PM | PERMALINK

... can I steal your message?

Wish that it were mine to be stolen. It's no longer current, nor is it the final word on community involvement, by any means, but Catalyst magazine (an very good independent news rag dedicated to school reform in Chicago) had this to say back in 2002. Shorter version -- very mixed results.

Interestingly, their May, 2008, issue is devoted to urban-suburban achievement gaps. Haven't read it yet, but it's on my agenda for tomorrow now.

Posted by: junebug on July 25, 2008 at 12:09 AM | PERMALINK

maxgowan:

But want to bet what the data shows when they are given high-quality additional time? Same is true with quality tutoring.

Absolutely. But how do you make that African-American kid want to go to tutoring? His friends are spending their summers at the beach, and he wants to go with them. He goes to a couple of sessions, and then his friends criticize him and say he's "acting white." He goes to a couple of tutoring sessions, and then he drops out, and the cycle continues. And everything you've cited don't help the issue - I can show you Asians with exactly the same issues you've cited, and yet they've all graduated high school and gone on to college. The old solutions don't work. Let's stop wasting money on old solutions that don't work and try to solve the real issue. The problem is culture.

Posted by: Andy on July 25, 2008 at 12:25 AM | PERMALINK

I can show you Asians with exactly the same issues you've cited, and yet they all graduated high school and going on to college.

Yes, please. Show us the Asian Americans whose generations of ancestors were brought here in chains, segregated from the rest of society, & then filed away in World War II era housing. Show us those Asian-Americans who live in the same kind of poverty, who experience the same levels of violence on a daily basis, and who live with the legacy of single-parent households.

Let's stop wasting money on old solutions that don't work and try to solve the real issue. The problem is culture.

Or maybe part of the problem is indifference & lingering bigotry.

Posted by: junebug on July 25, 2008 at 12:57 AM | PERMALINK

My cousin and his wife, here in Nashville, run a microscopic sized program at a single lower income high school, a program aimed at character building. They are Christians and this is their ministry although they don't bring that aspect of it into the school.

They meet with the kids and talk with them about other, broader opportunities they might have in life. They take them on field trips to help others such as down to New Orleans to help out Katrina victims.

The results are palpable. The kids start working harder in school, dressing better, leaving the gang and clicks that are downward leading behind. And statistically the graduation rates have spiked.

There are other things to do. It takes community action.

Posted by: Ed D. on July 25, 2008 at 7:32 AM | PERMALINK

"I can show you Asians with exactly the same issues you've cited, and yet they all graduated high school and going on to college.

Yes, please. Show us the Asian Americans whose generations of ancestors were brought here in chains, segregated from the rest of society, & then filed away in World War II era housing. Show us those Asian-Americans who live in the same kind of poverty, who experience the same levels of violence on a daily basis, and who live with the legacy of single-parent households."
_____________________________________________
I don't really see how slavery enters into this. Slavery has been gone for a long time. Everyone agrees that it was reprehensible, horrible, etc. But it was a long time ago. And we need to stop using it as an excuse for not achieving.

And many, many Asians who come to this country come with nothing. What they do tend to have is an intact family structure. With that structure come expectations. Many inner city kids(black and white), as we all know, have fragmented family structures, and low expectations from their families. It makes all of the difference in the world.

Posted by: mollycoddle on July 25, 2008 at 7:52 AM | PERMALINK

Andy, the "acting white" phenom is thankfully going away. Our lowest dropout rate is with Black girls, by the way; white boys have a higher dropout rate than Black males. The dropout problems with Latino kids is where it's highest. And of course our high achieving students of color - and there are a lot of them - get fantastic scholarships at top-flight universities. There are a lot of these kids who break out of their circumstances, just not enough of them. But we do have a big foothold.

You think everything I've cited doesn't help? Really? What part of the education profession do you work in? And where is your data?

Posted by: maxgowan on July 25, 2008 at 7:54 AM | PERMALINK

I don't really see how slavery enters into this. Slavery has been gone for a long time. Everyone agrees that it was reprehensible, horrible, etc. But it was a long time ago. And we need to stop using it as an excuse for not achieving.

Since you seem to want focus on slavery at the exclusion of everything I mentioned which has followed because of that, and since you want to relegate slavery to some historical dustbin of irrelevance, then I'll simply point out to you -- since you obviously missed it -- the sequence of unforgivable (which is what you must've meant by "etc.") circumstances to which white Americans have subjected black Americans since we dragged them over here in the first place: enslavement to Black Codes, Black Codes to Jim Crow, Jim Crow to segregation, and then segregation to the rise of twits like Andy, who, by the sounds of it, wants to either play a white Marcus Garvey & jumpstart the back to Africa movement, or do his best Rex Harrison to fix their "culture problem" (which, as yet, remains unidentified by him).

My point is that there's been a systematic & brutally logical sequence that's gotten us to where we are today. It began with the original sin of slavery, and continued with lynchings, poll taxes, literacy tests, anti-miscegnation laws, & separate but "equal" -- and it continues today with things like redlining & the quarantining of poor minorities in virtually uninhabitable public housing & crime-ridden neighborhoods.

And many, many Asians who come to this country come with nothing. What they do tend to have is an intact family structure.

A traditional family structure, indeed -- something that slavery managed to completely destroy for African-Americans, and something that grinding poverty goes a long way toward perpetuating. These aren't, as you put it, excuses for not achieving; they are, though, reasons that help explain why we face this intractable problem. It's unfair, and ultimately counterproductive, to pretend that the fact of this lack of academic achievement has occurred in a vacuum, and the logical extension of that kind of thinking is what you get from someone like Andy -- the "culture" of certain minorities is inherently inferior, and those minorities therefore need to be culturally indoctrinated, relocated, or exterminated. Take your pick.

Posted by: junebug on July 25, 2008 at 12:57 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin,

You really need to address the fact that WAKE COUNTY'S GAINS ARE NOTHING SPECIAL. In the WHOLE STATE of North Carolina measured "performance" went up by similar amounts!!!

If Wake County was doing something that worked so well, why didn't it greatly outperform its state?

Maybe the game was rigged at the state level, (as these thing SO often are) and the "results" are hogwash?

Certainly THE DATA give no good reason to think Wake County is a great model of success, sorry!

Posted by: The Dead Bodies on July 25, 2008 at 2:12 PM | PERMALINK

Adam wrote: "How can such concentrations of deep persistent poverty exist in a classless society?"

The answer is pretty simple, Andrew. Poverty is caused by dropping out of school and having children out of wedlock. Finish high school and get married before you start breeding and the odds are very high that you won't be poor. It's not society that's responsible. Or maybe it is: a couple of generations ago, back when having children out of wedlock was frowned upon ("bastards" was the term used for boys born to unmarried women), the rate of marriage and family formation was much, much higher in African American communities than it is today. Unless you think that America is more racist today than it was in the days of Jim Crow laws and hard color lines, you can't possibly argue that the collapse of marriage in African American society is the result of white racism. But you can argue that the collapse of traditional sexual morality has had disasterous effects on the under class.

Posted by: on July 25, 2008 at 3:03 PM | PERMALINK

As usual with any education related discussion, lots of good observations by most posters! In my experience teaching in urban high schools, I have to agree that it's not poverty per se that is a real problem in terms of educational outcomes, it's the culture related to poverty. I taught for instance great kids who were living in apartments in the scary low income homeless and drug infested section of the city with parents who spoke little English. Some worked at fast food places etc. They mostly spoke English as a second language themselves. I don't have the stats but most went on to college.
So, what to do? Dicriminalize drugs, which will largely eliminate gangs and the competitive illegal income culture of drug dealing. Close all housing projects, which will end these centers of generational social pathology and disfunction and allow individuals to move socioeconomically. Yes, I know, not going to happen but I'm serious - these kind of changes are really necessary to attack the roots of the education problem.

Posted by: emjayay on July 25, 2008 at 4:54 PM | PERMALINK

"A traditional family structure, indeed -- something that slavery managed to completely destroy for African-Americans, and something that grinding poverty goes a long way toward perpetuating."

Junebug, if slavery "managed to completely destroy" traditional family structure for African Americans, it seems to have worked it's magic with an incredibly long time-lag. The black illegitimacy rate was at 22% in 1965, a century after slavery and after decades of Jim Crow. Now the rate is around 68%. It seems logical to conclude that causes in the latter half of the 20th century are responsible for the destruction of the African American family structure.

Posted by: scottynx on July 25, 2008 at 5:36 PM | PERMALINK

First of all, junebug, don't call me a twit, you piece of shit. You lack the ability to reason, so shut the fuck up. You don't need to work in the education field to look at data and reason, maxgowan. I'm looking for answers, not rhetoric. We can continue with these inane feel-good and pat yourself on the back programs and we get 30 more years of high dropout rate, or we LISTEN to young black leaders who are trying to solve the problem with real solutions. Unless you've been living in a cave, or don't read the news, you would know the following information that just came out of California (which is where I live):

Facts:
The statewide dropout rate among African Americans was 41.6 percent and 30.3 percent among Latinos, O’Connell said.

The new data revealed high dropout rates for minority students: 41.3 percent of black students, 31.3 percent of Native Americans, 30.3 percent of Hispanics, and 27.9 percent of Pacific Islanders. White students had a 15.2 percent dropout rate, while Asians had a 10.2 percent rate.


Calif. dropout rate

Black dropout rate

Helpful hints: Google is your friend. Reading will enlighten you. And learn to reason.

Posted by: Andy on July 26, 2008 at 4:00 AM | PERMALINK

junebug:

I don't have a solution to this.

That's right. You certainly don't have a solution, you moron.

Posted by: Andy on July 26, 2008 at 4:06 AM | PERMALINK

junebug:

Show us the Asian Americans whose generations of ancestors were brought here in chains, segregated from the rest of society, & then filed away in World War II era housing.

Google "Chinese railroad massacre." Chinese Immigrant laborers who worked on the railroads were routinely robbed, killed, and unpaid. Japanese-Americans were interned, leaving their property, possessions, and livelihood. California's 1913 Alien Land Act didn't allow Asian-Americans to own land until 1952. There is a long, sorry history of discrimination against Asian-Americans in this country. junebug, you are an idiot, and you know nothing.

Posted by: Andy on July 26, 2008 at 4:20 AM | PERMALINK

As one from Wake County, I can tell you what looks "fine" on paper is not working. The latest test scores out on math are below what they were last year. Graduation rates have dropped.....Wake County has been sued recently and is awaiting a Supreme court decision because the school board is forcing families to accept a yaer round calendar, with no say so. Well right now, parents can "opt out" to a Traditional school and yes the Superintendent of Growth has said publically that they want the traditional options to be as "unappealing" as possible....and they are.

Imagine putting your kindergartner on a bus ride of 1 hour and 15 minutes ONE WAY to school?! That means as early at 6AM to a bus stop, that's a mere smidgeon of what socio-economic diversity will get you in Wake county. someone posted above that Wake didn't fair much better than NC on a whole in changing the gaps and it's true.

Theose numbers are out there, but it's only the "premise" of a plan that gets the notoriaity.
Let me tell you, people are sick of it and it's starting to crumble.....don't beleive me, just follow the local papers, not the self-inflated NY Times, or papers like this one. Unless you LIVE IT , you WILL NOT get it.

Posted by: Angela on July 26, 2008 at 7:07 AM | PERMALINK

Interesting points, Kevin.

And yet, there are schools that achieve good results in conditions of high poverty. When I served on my local school board, I learned of the existence of "90-90-90 schools" (go ahead and Google that phrase). These are schools that have 90% (or more) poverty, 90% non-white enrollment and have 90% of students achieving on grade level. There are some who try to deny the legitimacy of these results, but they are apparently real.

Posted by: exschoolboardguy on July 26, 2008 at 9:42 AM | PERMALINK

Important point, exschoolboardguy. I was waiting for someone to bring up 90-90-90. We worked on that one a few years back. I work in a district where we have schools with 97% poverty, unuer 12% white, but where 82%+ are meeting the highest standards in the U.S. The "metric" is the principal. These are first-rate, very best of . . . principals. But it's rare.

BTW, in the U.S., the Black dropout rate has fallen steadily since the early-1970s. It's is, in fact, the only group to make headway. The highest dropout rate nationally persistantly remains Hispanic kids, especially the girls (although everywhere else, the boys are in the most trouble and are losing the most ground).

In my urban district, Blacks have lower dropout rates than any other group. This has been consistent for some time, too. But this is just one district.

Posted by: maxgowan on July 26, 2008 at 10:31 AM | PERMALINK

For citites, the answer is urban/suburban transfers across district lines.

This is working in Hartford Connecticut where, Richard Kahlenberg reports, there are waiting lists of surburban kids who want to get into the city's magnet schools. See his full reply here Two-thirds of poor children do not live in inner cities.

And many kids are transported across school district lines in urban/suburban transfer programs.

Richard Kahlenberg has excellent information on all of this--see his recent post responding to Kevin Drum here http://takingnote.tcf.org/2008/07/can-school-inte.html#more

Someone wrote that "surburban schools don't want poor kids." This may be true of some surburban parents--and even some teachers. But
Kahlenberg's work shows that when you spread poor students out in middle class schools (say with 3 or 4 in a classroom) most are not behavior problems. Instead, they model themsleves on the middle-class kids. (Kids don't like being different, and if everyone is sitting in their seat, you look like a jerk if you're running around.)

Posted by: maggie mahar on July 28, 2008 at 11:32 AM | PERMALINK

It seems to me that culture and poverty intermingle and create the problems facing low-achieving black and Hispanic students in American schools today.

As a former teacher of low-income and high-income populations of various ethnic groups, I believe the way for students to achieve is for each student to make school a priority, pay attention in class, do their homework, and not misbehave. I've seen plenty of low-income students achieve with this attitude (for instance, the son of an Afrian American preacher who actively distanced himself from the low-achieving attitudes of his peers).

The solution to the current problem? I recommend to your reading the books by John McWhorter on this subject: Losing the Race (2000) and Winning the Race (2006). He accurately summarizes the problem as being one of culture mixed with poverty. Until minority students make academic achivement a priority, their scores will not improve - even with quality teachers, small classes, extra tutoring, etc.

I think this will not happen until the cycle of "babies having babies" stops in America. Teenagers need to wait until they graduate from high school (at least!), get a job, hopefully get married, and THEN have children. I really believe that until then, it will be hard to break this cycle of poor academic performance because it is encouraged by the preponderance of low-income, poorly educated parents in the black and Hispanic communities.

As one commenter above noted, it's bizarre that in America the poorest and least educated section of the populace has the most children per capita. It's hard to instill the important values of education and good behavior in your children, when you are young, poor, and uneducated yourself (and often raising the children as a single parent). I'm not sure what the solution is... any suggestions?

Posted by: Attorney DC on July 28, 2008 at 12:28 PM | PERMALINK

It seems to me that culture and poverty intermingle and create the problems facing low-achieving black and Hispanic students in American schools today.

As a former teacher of low-income and high-income populations of various ethnic groups, I believe the way for students to achieve is for each student to make school a priority, pay attention in class, do their homework, and not misbehave. I've seen plenty of low-income students achieve with this attitude (for instance, the son of an Afrian American preacher who actively distanced himself from the low-achieving attitudes of his peers).

The solution to the current problem? I recommend to your reading the books by John McWhorter on this subject: Losing the Race (2000) and Winning the Race (2006). He accurately summarizes the problem as being one of culture mixed with poverty. Until minority students make academic achivement a priority, their scores will not improve - even with quality teachers, small classes, extra tutoring, etc.

I think this will not happen until the cycle of "babies having babies" stops in America. Teenagers need to wait until they graduate from high school (at least!), get a job, hopefully get married, and THEN have children. I really believe that until then, it will be hard to break this cycle of poor academic performance because it is encouraged by the preponderance of low-income, poorly educated parents in the black and Hispanic communities.

As one commenter above noted, it's bizarre that in America the poorest and least educated section of the populace has the most children per capita. It's hard to instill the important values of education and good behavior in your children, when you are young, poor, and uneducated yourself (and often raising the children as a single parent).

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