Re: "Failing" Innercity Schools? Not Actually So Bad.

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Meh--this seems to fail to capture that middle class kids end up segregated from poor ones in large public school systems, the same way they're segregated in the suburbs. I'm thinking of NYC's PS 321--it's an absolutely fantastic school, but it's full of middle & upper class kids. The cost of a brownstone in that area is $1 million, and a 2br rental (if you can find one) is easily $2000-3000 (10 years ago, housing was half to a third as much, so there are still non-rich families there. But there haven't been truly poor people there since about 1790).

So, you end up with a situation that's basically like suburban districting, where the poor kids are all in one system and the rick kids are all in another. Only it's more unpredictable because the density means school zones can change and you can end up outside the "good" schools. That doesn't happen in the suburbs, so it may just be a case of parents hedging their bets (or not being able to afford the city neighborhoods that have good schools).

On the "why do kids in poor schools do poorly," I saw a piece last night (I think in the NYT) that talked about poor kids being pulled out of school after school, mostly because their parents' living situations were so chaotic and they were constantly moving from one housing situation to the next, changing schools along the way.

I found it shocking that in low income schools, there's something like a 30-50% turnover in the student body.

Why are we wondering why inner-city schools suck? If a third to half the kids in a classroom are bouncing around from year to year, how the hell can a school function? Am I missing something here?


Posted by: theorajones | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 6:21 AM
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Quick points:
1) The data's through eighth grade. What's the difference in results between a troubled urban high school, an urban magnet school*, a good public suburban high school, and a private prep school? My gut says the differences in high school are both much more important (because of their effect on college admissions and because more stuff is actually learned) and much greater than differences in elementary schools.

2) If the socialization effect is as strong as you say, the hypothetical middle class parent has a reason not to send her kid to a poor urban school; socialization goes both ways. But I don't think it is as strong as you say, or else the poor kids in rich districts would be doing better just by association.

3) I found the data depressing. If the poor kids aren't doing better when the district is better, what do we do?

*Magnet schools are often fantastic, but a parent would have to consider how the district works, and whether her child would be likely to get into the program.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 6:25 AM
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I found it shocking that in low income schools, there's something like a 30-50% turnover in the student body.

I had a friend who taught at one of the most depressing high schools in Austin. She told me that the official attendance was taken on the 10th class day, and that was what their funding for the year was based on. About a month later, a third to half more kids would arrive, sons and daughters of migrant workers, and they'd just have to cram them into the existing classes.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 6:40 AM
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1: this seems to fail to capture that middle class kids end up segregated from poor ones in large public school systems, the same way they're segregated in the suburbs.

Maybe I'm missing your point, but Yglesias's 2nd, 3rd, and 4th graphs presumably exclude the middle-class kids?

At first glance to me, this all just looks like (another) textbook case of Simpson's Paradox.

Causal inference is hard when you're averaging across hundreds of thousands of children who each have belong in their own demographic sub-category.


Posted by: arthegall | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 6:49 AM
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Lots of balls in the air. Education is one of the insane topics of American politics. (Maybe Dsquared will show up to pull our chains so we can all have fun!)

School quality is wired into housing values, which is why neighborhood schools and de facto segregation are so persistent, and upward mobility is tied to school quality too, but people only want upward mobility for their own kids, not for everyone's. And education sometimes is bent toward helping kids rise in class, and sometimes so that kids who are already up there in the top rung can manifest and maintain their highclassness.

And schools are expected to solve such social problems as poverty, racism, homophobia, teen preganancy, and drug use too.

I generally agree that the schools aren't as bad as people think, considering, and that it's unreasonable to expect great school performance from kids whose lives are objectively awful. At the same time, kids tend to conform to the local culture, so good kids trapped in a bad neighborhood tend to get dragged down.

Conservative talk a lot about choice, but once in office they tend to leave neighborhood schools safe. Rather than open admissions statewide (which would let some kids escape from bad schools), or equal funding for all schools statewide, it's more politically attractive to propose charter schools etc., because that way you zing the teachers' unions and don't send kids from bad neighborhoods into good neighborhoods schools.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 6:53 AM
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else the poor kids in rich districts would be doing better just by association.

I think in some cases they are. Just like with housing segregation, I think there is a tipping point. The problem is that it's different for the different groups. A middle-class family might be willing to tolerate a small percentage of working-class or poor classmates for their child, but at a certain point* it will feel like "too much" and they'll be gone. Conversely, a working-class or poor family may use the presence of middle-class kids as one proxy for a "good" school, and strive to get their kids in there, but as their population grows the middle class will shrink. It's hard to reach any kind of equilibrium. (This is a descriptive statement about the US today, not a claim about how it must inevitably be.)

*There is an interesting side discussion to be had here about social class and socialization, and what parents do/don't care about their children picking up. Vulgar language, fashion trends, physical altercations, drug-use practices and preferences, linguistic or cultural intolerance, homophobia, normalization of early pregnancy or prison time....the list is very long, and different factors weigh more heavily for different parents.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 6:55 AM
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My son's HS was all classes except the richest 10% (lots of tracking) and tended to be lower middle class or working class, including the black kids. Most of the very poor were SE Asian refugees, but some were black. One of my son's friends came from the worst possible background (no food at home, mother sometimes in jail) but turned out fairly well -- he was socially fluent even though he was a poor student. I'd say the school worked for him, but if half the class had been kids like him, it probably wouldn't have.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 7:14 AM
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When we moved to the Cleveland area, we did the exact opposite of what Lizard advises. Our first, and practically only filter, in deciding where to live was the quality of the schools. We did this automatically and unhesitatingly. We chose a district with a great public school and a private Montessori school that goes through 8th grade.

We have all the same values as LB, and were aware of all the arguments. Maybe we Caroline and Joey would be just as well off if we chose a walkable neighborhood in Cleveland itself with ok schools. But it wasn't going to happen.

People get really cowardly when it comes to their kids. I know I do.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 7:19 AM
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At a school reunion I met the son of a hip pastor who had been one of the 2% of white kids in an East Coast urban district. He acted out the thug role so much that he wasn't viable except in countercultural situations. I couldn't tell whether he was really thuggish or had just picked up the mannerisms, but he was for real in the sense of having worked out his act on site in a black school (i.e., he wasn't a suburbanite working from videos.)

He did say one thing indicating that he planned his life day to day based on the presumption of the ever-present possibility of violence, which was reasonable in his school but a detriment out in the greater world. For example, the intimidating air you need to have in the hood is very off-putting everywhere else, and he hadn't learned to turn it off.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 7:28 AM
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A guy I dated in college went to a very good magnet program in Houston, which was interesting in that the program itself was set in a larger non-elite urban high school but completely segregated academically but not extracurricularly. A school within a school, really. Usually, the two populations didn't mix much; nerdy elite high school kids tended to do nerdy elite things. The guy's brother, though, was on the football team, and picked up all sorts of urban mannerisms (as well as the nickname 'Coconut.') because the kids on the team weren't from the magnet program.

So you have a rich white kid whose friends are all poor black kids, talking about calculus sounding like a thug. It was pretty awesome.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 7:37 AM
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People get really cowardly when it comes to their kids.

There's nothing cowardly about moving into a good school district, any more than is taking your kid to a private doctor instead of the free clinic.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 7:39 AM
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8: Yeah, I shouldn't get too much credit for courage. The school my kids are in isn't a segregated middle-class enclave, but it's also not a segregated lump of grinding poverty, and they both happen to be really big strong outgoing kids, which at the grade-school level kills a lot of worry about getting pushed around (like, I'd probably be a lot more protective of them if they were smaller and shyer, just in terms of being socially miserable in school.)

The socialization things are weird; I am realizing how much of a snob I am. Both Sally and Newt have picked up a certain amount of New York minority working class speech patterns, and I have to talk myself purposefully into believing that as long as they can code-switch fluently, which they can, it won't do them any harm. But I find, e.g., the unselfconscious and unironic use of 'mad' as an intensifier surprisingly jarring.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 7:45 AM
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Obviously, that was me.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 7:45 AM
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People on unfogged are being ironic when they talk about their mad skillz?


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 7:54 AM
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By the by, I saw last night, and recommend, Hard Times at Douglass High: A No Child Left Behind Report Card, about a historically black high school in inner-city Baltimore.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 7:58 AM
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There's nothing cowardly about moving into a good school district, any more than is taking your kid to a private doctor instead of the free clinic.

Next you'll tell us not to take advantage of the many kid-related income-generating medical experiment opportunities. I never expected such snobbery from you, Apo.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 8:03 AM
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willing to tolerate

This is a really interesting point. We chose not even to consider the city where my wife's family lives and she grew up because being a lazy wonder bread of a human being is the default lifestyle there, and we had concerns for the kid; so that's a do not tolerate data point.

Aside from aspirational issues and the strange choices about which minor environmental influences are bad (saying aint is OK, saying gots is not), there's safety. I really don't know what to say-- I recognize that irrational fears tend to restrict freedom and create a burden for poor blacks when every honky crosses the street. But I'm big and not timid, so I don't have much to fear from small groups of bored teens.

Jonathan Lethem's fiction touches on some of this. I really liked both Motherless Brooklyn and Fortress of Solitude.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 8:07 AM
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kid-related income-generating medical experiment opportunities

Too unreliable of an income stream, as most drug trials won't allow you to enroll if you've been in another experimental trial within the past six months. Instead, I've taught my boys how to stitch tennis shoes.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 8:11 AM
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Motherless Brooklyn

I loved this book. Highly recommended.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 8:11 AM
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19: Huh. I wanted to love it, I felt slightly ashamed for not loving it, but I really, really hated it. Too highbrow for me.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 8:14 AM
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12: peeps gonna make mad ducats as code switchaz, yo.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 8:14 AM
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I just can't WAIT till James B. Shearer shows up on this thread, even though I already know exactly what he's going to say.


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 8:15 AM
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16. Oh, c'mon Tim. It would be cowardly if you thought that the situation that made you feel you needed to do that stuff was OK. Actually doing it in this man's world is just common humanity.


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 8:15 AM
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Oh Sifu. You so honky.


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 8:16 AM
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22: why wait? Make his point for him!

Poor kids are stuuuuupid nyah nyah nyah nyah.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 8:17 AM
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Too highbrow for me.

"Eat me, Zen master!" is too highbrow for you?


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 8:18 AM
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25: Stupid because they're BLACK, Sifu.


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 8:20 AM
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26: The lower classes can only afford to eat Zen adepts, apo.


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 8:21 AM
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We chose a district with a great public school

Rob, how did you determine which schools were "great"? No one will condemn you for wanting to send your children to a great school. The point of the post is that if average test-scores was your primary measure of school "greatness" (as I believe it is in most school "rankings" you'll see), you may not have been measuring as well as you'd hoped. Or very well at all, for that matter.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 8:30 AM
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Well, 29 was the point of Yglesias' post, at least. I think the point of LB's post is that you are, in fact, a bad person.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 8:31 AM
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"Eat me, Zen master!" is too highbrow for you?

My recollection is that the mystery isn't all that mysterious, that the meat is in the descriptions of place and people, and that the narrative structure is slightly odd. A bit of a review I found:

Lethem, after all, walks the serious-fiction beat, and in his hands the compulsions of Tourette's become a kind of kaleidoscopic metaphor, ultimately (and somewhat paradoxically) reflecting the fundamental ethos of the mystery genre itself: the compulsion to restore order and rightness to a world thrown temporarily out of joint.

Too highbrow.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 8:31 AM
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And I think LB also called you kids twerps.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 8:32 AM
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Your. Dammit.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 8:32 AM
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Hold up, IANAS but I have some concerns about these charts. They're comparing poor kids in a few major cities to poor kids nationwide, but aren't the urban poor a pretty big proportion of the nationwide poor, thus bringing the average closer to their level? Wouldn't it be more convincing to compare NY, Boston, and DC with school-lunch children in suburban and rural areas?


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 8:38 AM
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The thread drift from student performance to socialization speaks volumes about the impact schools have on children relative the the impact homelife does.


Posted by: babble | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 8:41 AM
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If rob's kids are twerps, it's all the more critical that they go to schools where the other kids are also twerps.


Posted by: peter | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 8:44 AM
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Too highbrow

The books with foil-embossed covers are over there, marketed with the menthol cigs. For xtra cred, which has more menthol, Newport or Kool?


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 8:44 AM
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Molly did the school ranking research. About the only thing I contributed was happening across an article in *Science* about the effectiveness of Montessori education, which sold me on the private school in our area. So I don't know if we looked at demographic breakdown within schools in making our choice.

Also, LB didn't call my kids twerps. She accused me of risking turning them into twerps in the future. We are only talking about potential twerpitude.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 8:46 AM
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34: "I Am Not A Schoolmarm"?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 8:47 AM
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thread drift

I don't think it's drift. Our society has established multiple goals for schools: Make students pass tests successfully, help students master subject matter, provide a safe environment with structured babysitting for X hours per day/year, and help socialize them to fit into adult world(s).

The original post refers to "results" as if what makes a school successful is purely the academic scores of its students. While that may be a necessary part of "success" for most parents, I don't think that it's anywhere near sufficient, in part because a school's ability to meet those other goals I listed above is automatic even if it's good at the test-score part.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 8:47 AM
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If 39 is correct, it raises the question of what kind of marm Minivet happens to be.


Posted by: peter | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 8:48 AM
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38: As long as they listen to enough Crass, rob, I think they'll still be down with the gente.


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 8:48 AM
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homelife

Are you not a parent, or conservative? Socialization happens mostly outside the home from an alarmingly early age. If everyone else in the classroom ignores schoolwork, you do too.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 8:48 AM
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is automatic s/b is not automatic.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 8:50 AM
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Socialization happens mostly outside the home from an alarmingly early age.

Speaking as a parent of a 4-y.o. who started day care at 12 weeks old, I strongly dispute this. There are certainly things we see in Iris that come from her non-home life (she sure as fuck didn't hear about Disney princesses from us), but I see a child who is overwhelmingly the product of our homelife.

Now, I know that this will change as she gets older, and school becomes more structured and she becomes more independent (of us, anyway). But the quoted premise - "alarmingly early age," unless "early" means, like, 8 - just isn't right, or is far too strong (which is the same thing).

What I would say is that kids with poor/weak* homelives are much more susceptible to outside influences, including (especially? I dunno) poor ones. But I simply don't believe that kids who grow up in homes where reading is practiced, education is valued, and family members treat one another with respect show up at Scary Public School and are turned into punks on the street corner.

* poor in the sense of bad/abusive/problematic; weak in the sense of absentee/inconsistent/scatterbrained parenting


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 9:03 AM
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But I simply don't believe that kids who grow up in homes where reading is practiced, education is valued, and family members treat one another with respect show up at Scary Public School and are turned into punks on the street corner.

Not ever, or just not necessarily?


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 9:07 AM
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lw, Indeed, I am a nonparent (conservative? heaven forfend!), but the intended meaning of my comment seems consistent with yours (and, to an extent, Witt's). My thoughts are simply that parents can do a lot to encourage learning and curiosity and to reward good academic habits--and that behavior has a much larger effect on kids than similar efforts provided by institutions. "Healthy" socialization, on the other hand, is influenced much more by factors outside the home (which isn't to say parenting doesn't play a role there as well). Had I had children, I would be far more apprehensive of my ability to keep them from becoming monsters (conservatives?) than to help them achieve their academic potential.


Posted by: babble | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 9:13 AM
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BTW, in the disputation of LB's premise, I think it's critical to focus on this part:

hurting yourself economically to get your kids out of the dreadful urban schools looks to be pointless

It's not so much that you shouldn't look at school quality as that you shouldn't think that school quality is worth financial hardship.

There's tradeoffs in all this, and the evidence is weak that marginal increase in "school quality"* are worth decreases in financial security, time spent at home (e.g., if location dictates long commutes), and overall quality of life. Some schools are amazing, and offer unique resources and opportunities (and apparently most of you attended such schools), and I can see where parents would put a lot of value on that. But I've seen an awful lot of nonsense where parents get really wound up over small perceived differences in quality (I say this as a product of suburban schools - they're all pretty much the same, folks).

* Scare quotes due to the dubiousness of measuring it, not that I think no such thing exists


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 9:14 AM
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The personal implication of this, for a middle-class parent, is that hurting yourself economically to get your kids out of the dreadful urban schools looks to be pointless

I don't think Yggles charts demonstrate any sweeping conclusion like this...especially if you are an upper middle class parent who wants their kids in a selective university. The non-school lunch demographic is huge, and the metrics being used here (passing scores on tests) are not a very good measure of the overall quality of education or socialization. Not to mention they get gamed a ton.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 9:19 AM
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I took my kid out of the "good" public school and put him in a much "worse" one. Hes much happier, and so am I, even though the worse one is far, far from perfect.

If the program goes under (which it might), or for some other reason we want to change schools, Im planning on putting him in the very brown school that all the other white parents avoid, since PKs teacher tells me that actually the curriculum there is excellent.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 9:20 AM
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||

Tributes to ogged are turning up all over

|>


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 9:21 AM
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Not ever, or just not necessarily?

Oh, I'd meant to add a caveat about character - some kids are, in fact, susceptible to bad influences, and probably need to be in the best environments to succeed. Or need to be in fail-proof environments, like all the trust fund kids who fuck up constantly but, because they went to St. Grottlesex, they'll be fine if/when they grow up.

So yeah, if your kid is setting fires in nursery school, or rolls over a candy store at age 6, then by all means, hie thee to Supportive Suburb Middle School. But I think that Typical Kid will succeed in rough proportion to SES and homelife, independent of school (barring truly failed schools, as evidently exist in DC).


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 9:21 AM
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8 is exactly the age where I fear serious loss of influence. Mine is 7 1/2. I'd prefer home to be the socially dominant influence until 12 or so. Others can choose different alarm thresholds, obviously.

Every home's life is poor or weak in some dimension, hopefully that dimension doesn't match the kids weakest spots. Safety and frequency of absent/addled parents aside (both significant exceptions), I don't know that poor homes are much worse than rich ones. Less respect for learning maybe, which is a problem if it's endemic. FWIW, I was a white-minority ESL kid until junior high.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 9:21 AM
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Also, am I the only person who seems to have noticed that kids that go to "good" schools all along often end up being really materialistic and doing a lot of drugs in h.s. and generally being entitled little brats?


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 9:21 AM
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and generally being entitled little brats?

54: I believe LB's term was "twerps"


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 9:22 AM
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The Onion versus the Associated Press. Can you tell the difference?


Posted by: Gaijin Biker | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 9:23 AM
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54 pwned by...the post itself

Or is the correct phrasing "0 to 54"?


Posted by: peter | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 9:23 AM
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and generally being entitled little brats?

Yeah, but that's typically true of kids who grow up in neighborhoods full of families that can afford `good' schools, regardless of where they actually go.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 9:24 AM
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Also, am I the only person who seems to have noticed that kids that go to "good" schools all along often end up being really materialistic and doing a lot of drugs in h.s. and generally being entitled little brats?

A substantial portion of my HS graduating class fits the "went to 'good' schools all along" criteria, and hardly any of them did drugs in HS. So there.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 9:26 AM
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Also, am I the only person who seems to have noticed that kids that go to "good" schools all along often end up being really materialistic and doing a lot of drugs in h.s. and generally being entitled little brats?

For sure true of upper-crust prep school kids I knew, but then a lot turned out to do really well career-wise. Hmmmm.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 9:27 AM
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I would dispute 58. I spent about 100 times as much time with the kids I went to school with as I did with the kids in my neighborhood. I never even met the kids in my neighborhood, basically.

(this is probably not true for people who live in the same house for their entire childhood, or people who are comfortable talking to strangers)


Posted by: peter | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 9:27 AM
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59: Okay. At my "good" Catholic HS, the kids whod gone to Catholic schools all along all did coke in the bathroom. It was the kids whod gone to public school K-8 who didnt. Also, at the 10 year reunion, the "marginal" former public school kids had all gone on to do really interesting things.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 9:27 AM
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At my "good" Catholic HS, the kids whod gone to Catholic schools all along all did coke in the bathroom.

All of them?

It was the kids whod gone to public school K-8 who didnt.

All of them?

The Pope really is the antichrist.


Posted by: peter | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 9:29 AM
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Not to mention they get gamed a ton.

Is there some reason to think that inner city schools are extra-good at gaming test scores?

Test scores are a rough measure at best, but I don't recall seeing a lot of suburban school systems with good test scores downplaying them. Nor have I heard of a lot of real estate agents telling buyers, "Oh no, the test scores at Snotty Enclave Schools are probably gamed; you should really look in Modest Suburb next door. You'll get more value for your money."

especially if you are an upper middle class parent who wants their kids in a selective university.

If your kid belongs in a selective U., she'll get in regardless. As long as there are AP classes and extracurriculars available, the school should be no excuse for Lily and Jack failing to get into an Ivy equivalent. Show up with a 4.0, 1500 (or however they score the SAT now), 3 APs and presidency of the Geeky Students for World Peace Club, and you're in fine shape, even if most of your peers go to prison before graduation.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 9:30 AM
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62: Thank heavens my parents cared enough to pull me out of the Catholic school system and ship me off to public schooling!


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 9:32 AM
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kids that go to "good" American schools all along often end up being really materialistic and doing a lot of drugs

Keegan's going to a magnet school next year (the International Baccalaureate magnet) that mainly serves poor areas of Durham, and we picked it because of the curriculum. At the end of next year, we'll decide whether to continue or switch. It's not a political or moral decision, but simply determining what environment works best for my child (which, ultimately, should be the overriding concern for any parent).

I attended both low-performing schools and "better" schools at different times growing up. The educational experience *was* entirely better at the better schools, by any measure you'd care to employ. I also got beaten up a fair amount at the former, an experience that did not follow me to the latter.

Anecdotal and only one data point, to be sure, but nonetheless true.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 9:39 AM
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I went to an IB program! That otherwise served the poor areas of our town. Extreme racial and socio-economic divide between the program kids and rest.

But it wasn't necessarily the richest kids in town. Socially less emphasis was placed on one's looks than at the richer high school, which made it a good place for me. (I was cute as a button! But places that use looks as currency are toxic.)


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 9:43 AM
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school quality is worth financial hardship

Wait, reasoned discussion of falsifiable statements?

institutions

I'd agree that many people certainly tend to overrate "reputation" without much considering what that means. Where I live, the school's quality is actually determined by the principal-- budgets are allocated centrally, the principal can retain or repel capable teachers, and implement programs or not. The school a mile away is a litany of minor complaints. As far as the kids are concerned, I think that likelihood of an indifferent teacher and safety level are the most relevant variables.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 9:44 AM
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I don't have time to keep up with this whole discussion, but I should clarify that what I said in 6.2 was meant to go both ways. Nice working-class kids from strong families can get totally screwed up by hanging out with unparented UMC kids who have serious drug/alcohol habits. It's just that the drug problems, mental health issues, eating disorders and related problems *present differently* in different types of environments.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 9:44 AM
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And my favorite fact EVER about the failing school in Austin where my friend taught? Their motto (I shit you not) was, "Where's Greatness?"

With the question mark and everything. It hung on a big banner next to the main entrance.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 9:47 AM
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I don't know that poor homes are much worse than rich ones. Less respect for learning maybe, which is a problem if it's endemic.

The difference in amount of reading at home can be truly breathtaking. There are 2 dimensions - do the parents read, and are the kids read to. A lot of high-SES parents will read to kids even if they never themselves read, but in poor families, there is commonly no reading at all, or extremely disengaged reading - baby books to 6-y.o.s, with no effort to do anything but read the words on the page.

8 is exactly the age where I fear serious loss of influence. Mine is 7 1/2. I'd prefer home to be the socially dominant influence until 12 or so.

Well, I'm not there yet as a parent, so I can't respond from that standpoint. But speaking from my own memory, this seems pretty unrealistic. I mean, I came from a very strong, very close-knit family, and so I was heavily influenced by them - but I was still starting to figure out the world for myself by about 9 or 10. It was, however, all in terms of how I'd been brought up. I dunno - kids have to socialize with their peers, or you get into a whole 'nother set of issues. There was absolutely no risk that, as an 8-y.o., I was going to become a poor student because I had classmates who were poor students.

I will say this about schools with a predominance of poor students/problem kids: smart kids can easily get bored in a classroom, and that can lead to trouble. But this happens in quite good schools - if the kid is smart enough, any non-gifted classroom will move too slowly to maintain interest. So you need to have a plan for keeping the kid engaged, and that can be harder at shitty schools. But my point all along here has been setting aside the truly shitty schools, where discipline is nonexistent, and the teachers can scarcely cover the required material. The cited study suggests that such schools are far rarer than is generally believed.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 9:48 AM
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I also got beaten up a fair amount at the former, an experience that did not follow me to the latter.

So the "better" school did fail Apo, who was clearly in need of more beatings.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 9:50 AM
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The cited study suggests that such schools are far rarer than is generally believed.

Wait, it just said these schools are everywhere poor people are. And in DC.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 9:51 AM
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As far as the kids are concerned, I think that likelihood of an indifferent teacher and safety level are the most relevant variables.

I think that sums up pretty well.

Oh, sorry, usage error. Let me try again:

Comity!


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 9:52 AM
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I'd prefer home to be the socially dominant influence until 12 or so.

I predict that when yours is 11-1/2, you'll up that bar to "16 or so".


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 9:53 AM
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Wait, it just said these schools are everywhere poor people are. And in DC.

No, it says that poor people do about the same in most places, but in DC they do worse.

The nationwide stats were school lunch kids regardless of location, which means that it includes school lunch kids who go to suburban schools and anywhere else.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 9:53 AM
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And now that Heebie is grown, she's as cute as a full-grown, adult, sexually-active button that can vote!


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 9:54 AM
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I predict that when yours is 11-1/2, you'll up that bar to "16 or so".

Hold on, I'll respond to this as soon as I get off the phone with my dad....


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 9:55 AM
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Worst button ever.


Posted by: peter | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 9:55 AM
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76: Okay, true, the study did not address the shittiness of schools, just the performance of students by economic status.

But my point all along here has been setting aside the truly shitty schools, where discipline is nonexistent, and the teachers can scarcely cover the required material. The cited study suggests that such schools are far rarer than is generally believed.

But it didn't say this, either.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 9:55 AM
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At the junior high to high school level, I think the best thing for a kid's mental health is to send them to a school where they can find a large group of peers who match well with their personality, interests, etc., where they can have social success. That's the key thing for adolescents, don't screw with it.

Is there some reason to think that inner city schools are extra-good at gaming test scores?

yes.

As long as there are AP classes and extracurriculars available, the school should be no excuse for Lily and Jack failing to get into an Ivy equivalent. Show up with a 4.0, 1500 (or however they score the SAT now),

Does every school have a full complement of AP classes now? They didn't when I was young. And even if they do, the pace of the AP class helps determine how well you will do on the test.

On 4.0s and SATs, I remember seeing a study that showed that A students in inner-city schools had average SAT scores equal to C students in suburban schools. Perhaps this is due to home environment or whatever, though.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 9:55 AM
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In my neighborhood, the schools are regarded as being a cut below those of the neighboring district, and the parents on my street (all white folks) send their kids to private schools.

Our public schools, however, are really good - my son's teachers are just terrific. Test-wise, you can see the phenomenon that Yglesias describes. While test scores are somewhat lower in our district than the one next door, when you merely account for the variable of ethnicity, test results are essentially identical. That is, the white kids do equally well in both districts, but my district is a lot more diverse.

Oddly, my nephew went to the excellent neighboring district, but chose a magnet program that put him in a much lower SES-type school. He switched back after a year. Apparently he spent a lot of time being threatened by thugs.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 9:56 AM
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As long as there are AP classes and extracurriculars available, the school should be no excuse for Lily and Jack failing to get into an Ivy equivalent.

If there's no AP classes, like at many schools, they have no chance of getting into an Ivy equivalent? that's much more discouraging than I would expect.


Posted by: peter | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 9:59 AM
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All of them?

At once, actually.

34: "I Am Not A Schoolmarm"?

Statistician.


Posted by: minivet | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 9:59 AM
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smart kids can easily get bored in a classroom, and that can lead to trouble. But this happens in quite good schools

Oh yeah, for sure. My public elementary school wasn't particularly poor and certainly wasn't rich (mostly middle class in my neighborhood, but a fair number of public-housing kids too), but I was getting in trouble all the damn time until I left that place.

I was still pretty bad through middle school (suspended three times), but at least I wasn't in the principal's office monthly anymore.

Too much energy really doesn't work when a kid is also feeling bored. Makes me fear for the schools now that the kids don't even have recess to burn off some of that extra fidgetiness.


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 10:03 AM
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Being egalitarian about HS while hoping that your kid will be abe to get into an Ivy college doesn't make sense to me.

As far as I know, there's quite a correlation between quality of school and objective success at every level down to pre-school. Obviously there's a lot of feedback as already-successful parents put their kids in high-quality schools, so cause and effect are unclear. In general, though, I think it makes sense for parents at any class level to put their kids into the best school possible, conventionally understood, to the extent that the kid's future career success is the chief desideratum. That's the strategy used by ambitious lower-class parents (e.g. immigrants).

The school making everyone here happy would be a non-problem non-elite school with high academic standards but no BMWs in the parking lot, but beggars can't be choosers.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 10:07 AM
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unrealistic

Yeah, I was trying for tongue-in-cheek. Like others, I was trying to get at the mechanics of what happens at schools that have good and bad reputations respectively, mainly safety and engaged teachers, both of which couple to the density of messed-up kids. It's good to broadcast that city schools aren't as bad as a cursory inspection goes. For the larger point, that a slightly adverse learning environment is fine for most kids, I'd agree with the narrow statement.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 10:08 AM
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But it didn't say this, either.

Well, If poor kids in middle class suburban schools do the same as poor kids in NYC and Boston public schools, then that's a pretty strong suggestion that public schools in NYC and Boston are not "truly shitty schools, where discipline is nonexistent, and the teachers can scarcely cover the required material." Further, the fact that DC schools do show up as significantly worse suggests that this evidence is capable of distinguishing between average and shitty schools.

Obviously, we're talking about pretty broad-brushed evidence being cited here. But what's the evidence that inner city schools are universally shitty? Pretty broad-brush stuff related to test scores, plus a healthy dose of prejudice and ignorant assumption (not directed at anyone here; I'm talking about the basis of society-wide presumptions).


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 10:13 AM
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Also, am I the only person who seems to have noticed that kids that go to "good" schools all along often end up being really materialistic and doing a lot of drugs in h.s. and generally being entitled little brats?

I think you've got the causation backwards. Entitled little brats tend to do drugs and go to good schools. Sending a kid to a school that isn't good might just make him an entitled brat that isn't good at school.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 10:16 AM
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If there's no AP classes, like at many schools, they have no chance of getting into an Ivy equivalent? that's much more discouraging than I would expect.

I could be wrong, but I think a student would have to show a lot of "character" (in the admissions office sense of the word) to overcome an absence of AP - a school that didn't have AP would be presumed to be so weak academically that straight-As in honors classes would be considered of dubious value.

As I say, I might be wrong.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 10:18 AM
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"... (Well, the DC schools are apparently genuinely terrible.) ..."

Curiously white students seem to do fine academically in DC schools (although apparently they don't stick around much past fourth grade).
See fourth grade white reading and mathematics scores for DC. Both rank first among the states and DC.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 10:19 AM
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I could be wrong, but I think a student would have to show a lot of "character" (in the admissions office sense of the word) to overcome an absence of AP - a school that didn't have AP would be presumed to be so weak academically that straight-As in honors classes would be considered of dubious value.

I think this is wrong. The admissions officers at the Ivy I'm familiar with all know the high schools in their regions well enough that they should be able to distinguish between a weak school and a good school that just happens not to have AP classes.


Posted by: mrh | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 10:21 AM
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88: I think one of the problems (this isn't entirely directly related to your point) is that the study isn't a comparison of poor kids in middle class suburban schools vs. poor in public schools, but poor in public schools vs. all school lunch recipients.

Meaning that the 'average school lunch recipient' probably already factors in all the poor test scores in the city, and if that's a significant majority of the sample (more poor city kids than poor rural kids), you wouldn't see much of a difference.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 10:21 AM
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On 4.0s and SATs, I remember seeing a study that showed that A students in inner-city schools had average SAT scores equal to C students in suburban schools. Perhaps this is due to home environment or whatever, though.

That's why I'm valuing AP - see 90. I have no idea how ubiquitous AP is, although I think that the majority of HSs have at least a few - which is all you would need to prove that your good grades measure up against good grades at better schools. Since a lot of students don't take the AP exams until the end of senior year, I'm not sure the AP score itself is determinative; it's taking AP courses and succeeding in them.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 10:21 AM
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"If your kid belongs in a selective U., she'll get in regardless. As long as there are AP classes and extracurriculars available, the school should be no excuse for Lily and Jack failing to get into an Ivy equivalent. Show up with a 4.0, 1500 (or however they score the SAT now), 3 APs and presidency of the Geeky Students for World Peace Club, and you're in fine shape, even if most of your peers go to prison before graduation."

This may be true, but the AP classes seem like a pretty big "if"....I think once you get to a decent school there are definite diminishing returns, though.

My school district was unusually integrated for Long Island, but the elementary schools were not--one was about half black, one was almost all black (where they bussed the kids all over the district for the gifted program two days a week--way to add a nice racial element to the universal dislike of the nerds), and the rest of the seven were lily white. And the honors classes in high school were disproportionately white too--depressing. My sisters & me definitely couldn't have gone to the colleges we did or got the educations we did if it weren't for all those AP classes. But it would've been nice if they'd at least been open to every student willing to do the work & risk a lower grade, instead of requiring your sixth grade teacher or a subsequent teacher to recommend you & demoting you if you got C's.

I think about 3/4 of my class went to college--maybe 1/4 or 1/3 to community college, the next largest group to NY state universities, & a dozen-odd who went to Ivy league or comparable schools.

My husband's family did the archetypal P.S. 321-to-private-school thing. Academically, it wasn't so different from the honors/AP track of my standard-Long-Island-public school--better as far as diversity of electives, even more AP classes offered, & ridiculously successful at getting students into college, but we ended up at the same place & I don't think I particularly worked harder to get there. I probably would've been much happier socially at his H.S.; on the other hand, every single girl who went there seems to have an eating disorder, and there was notably more drug use than among my circle at public school.

I think H.S. matters a fair bit when it comes to getting into college. Elementary school much less so, as long as there are decent teachers, the kid is picking up the basic skills, is getting whatever gaps filled in at home, & isn't coming to any harm. And the "my child must get into the best preschool or it will blight his/her life" is pretty nuts.


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 10:21 AM
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1. I'm not sure I'd make conclusions of any kind on the basis of Yglesias' stats without further clarification. They're just presented at too high a level of abstraction. There are tons of questions on would want to ask before one even wanted to make the case that DC 2. I certainly don't think a middle-class or upper-class parent is well advised to act on the basis of these data. Let's just stipulate that, indeed, urban public and suburban public do an equally bad job at educating disadvantaged kids. What implication does this have for parents of non-disadvantaged kids?


Posted by: baa | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 10:22 AM
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What implication does this have for parents of non-disadvantaged kids?

If you care at all about humanity, you'll sell them to medical science.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 10:25 AM
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1. I'm not sure I'd make conclusions of any kind on the basis of Yglesias' stats without further clarification. They're just presented at too high a level of abstraction. There are tons of questions on would want to ask before one even wanted to make the case that Suburbs = Boston or Boston > DC on the basis of these stats. Are $/student or teacher quality different in DC vs. NY vs. Boston vs. the national average? Does "eligible for school lunch" describe the same types of populations in each case? Do other measures of school "failure" differ? What proportion of school lunch-eligible kids are in urban school districts (i.e., is comparing Boston to the "national average" really a comparison or urban vs. a mixed urban/suburban sample, or a comparison of urban vs. urban) One could go on...
2. I certainly don't think a middle-class or upper-class parent is well advised to act on the basis of these data. Let's just stipulate that, indeed, urban public and suburban public do an equally bad job at educating disadvantaged kids. What implication does this have for parents of non-disadvantaged kids?


Posted by: baa | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 10:26 AM
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HS matters a bit, if only because the likelihood of EmmaJacob getting the 4.0, the 1500 SAT score, etc., in a school where s/he exhausts the curriculum and the curriculum doesn't include AP/advanced courses is kind of small.

And that's assuming away problems with violence, classroom atmosphere, idiot principals, poor guidance. My high school guidance counselor told me not to apply to the school that I got into and attended because there was no way I'd get in. I'm glad my parents didn't listen. And this was in a good district, and me with ridiculously high scores.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 10:27 AM
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word to the wise, the less than sign creates havoc!

you'll sell them to medical science

I thought I was supposed to strap weights to the ankles of the fast kids.


Posted by: baa | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 10:27 AM
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It's odd to me that as far as secondary education goes, no one makes the case for a high-quality education being an end in itself. I see it all the time w/r/t college, but hardly ever in the high school context.


Posted by: ed bowlinger | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 10:28 AM
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But what's the evidence that inner city schools are universally shitty?

The source of my nit-pickiness was the shittiness of non-inner city schools. So I was trying to say, "Shitty schools can be all over the place!" The school my friend taught at in Austin has been foremost on my mind in this thread, and while it was a very poor school, I wouldn't call it inner city. But it was a total disaster as an institution.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 10:28 AM
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"... And from the other end, being isolated from anyone who isn't comfortably middle class is a great way to end up entitled and clueless: given that there don't seem to be substantial educational benefits to it, why increase the chance your kids will end up being twerps?"

What you consider a bug many parents would consider a feature.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 10:31 AM
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I'd like to register my opposition to the "parents have an obligation to do what's best for their children -- in terms of future material prosperity -- and this trumps everything else" line that's been given a few times above.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 10:32 AM
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Sausagely cherry-picked his data, too (probably not intentionally, since he used the 3 cities he's lived in). New York and Boston aren't the best-scoring cities in the sample, but they're both at or above average. If he'd gone to U. Chicago instead of Harvard, the graphs would have looked a lot different.


Posted by: Tom Scudder | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 10:38 AM
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104: But what in terms of some kind of intellectual flourishing? Is it less objectionable for a parent to justify seeking high-quality schools out of an obligation to foster that?


Posted by: ed bowlinger | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 10:39 AM
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22

"I just can't WAIT till James B. Shearer shows up on this thread, even though I already know exactly what he's going to say."

Well the post generally agrees with what I have been saying all along. Most schools don't differ much in that academic performance is largely predictable from student characterstics independent of the school. And to the extent that schools do affect academic performance this is mostly peer effects rather than things like teacher quality. So paying teachers more is a poor way to improve student performance.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 10:41 AM
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Oh, we're registering oppositions now? I'd like to register my opposition to the idea that the EmmaJacob we're interested in as middle-class parents of course will have a 1500 SAT score and get into the Ivy League with his 4.0. Because most middle class people aren't sending their kids to Harvard. Most are hoping the kid gets around an 1100 or a 1200 and manages to get to State or maybe one of the private schools having had a 3.75 in high school. That's somewhere where being able to say 'but he earned those grades in a good school' is important.

It's not all about the Ivies. I mean, I know my hypothetical kids will be perfect, but there's enough variation among most of the middle-class families I knew growing up such that having no kids that went to selective colleges was the norm, and among the families that had one kid going to a selective school, it was more likely than not that the rest of the siblings were headed to less selective schools.

So maybe EmmaJacob does fine with her 1500, but I think the question, if one's thinking about where to live when having kids in school, should be how well JackLilly does with a B+ average and a 1200.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 10:41 AM
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104: I didn't see anybody phrase it in terms of "obligation". I think the line is more like "You can't blame parents if they put their children's future material prosperity above the greater good."

And that's right.

I blame parents for having children in the first place.


Posted by: zadfrack | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 10:42 AM
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re: 106

Is it less objectionable for a parent to justify seeking high-quality schools out of an obligation to foster that?

I suspect 9 times out of 10 when people give that reason they are being dishonest, with themselves or with others. It's funny how 'intellectual flourishing' correlates so well with higher SES.

I'm not saying that parents have no obligations at all with respect to their children in this respect, that'd be nuts, but it's almost a cliché these days that it has to trump everything else or be the single most important motivating factor.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 10:42 AM
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19: You just loved it for the bagpipe jokes, admit it. It starts out great but then kinda trails off at the end.


Posted by: arthegall | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 10:43 AM
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re: 109

e.g. Apo's:

It's not a political or moral decision, but simply determining what environment works best for my child (which, ultimately, should be the overriding concern for any parent).

above. It's also something that's been said a lot, in varying ways, in other threads on education here in the past. It also gets trotted out in every article I read about education policy in the press.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 10:45 AM
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Meaning that the 'average school lunch recipient' probably already factors in all the poor test scores in the city, and if that's a significant majority of the sample (more poor city kids than poor rural kids), you wouldn't see much of a difference.

Well, we simply need more data to determine this, but I'm not quite buying that. Some quick research plus BOE calculations* gets maybe 5 million students in big city school districts, with 30 million free lunch kids nationwide. Doesn't look like this hypothesis is right.

* Basically, NYC is 1 million kids, but Chicago is 400k, and Boston and DC are 50k. So 1M for NYC, 1M for the next 3 big districts, then 50k average for the next 20 districts, and you're only at 3M. However you want to jumble the numbers together, I don't see how you can say that the vast majority of 30M free lunch kids are in Scary Urban Schools, pulling down the average scores of free lunch kids in Adequate NonUrban Schools.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 10:47 AM
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Slightly off-topic, but what does anyone know about the Oakland / Berkeley black-neighborhood schools. Several individuals I've known who went to them seem to have gotten good, Berkeleyesque educations they wouldn't have got elsewhere.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 10:49 AM
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It's funny how 'intellectual flourishing' correlates so well with higher SES.

I don't know the UK educational system, but one of the primary problems I see in the US is that there can be such a stark divide in school quality. I don't think it's a bell curve, at least in some geographic areas.

I'm perfectly happy thinking that parents have an obligation to keep their children physically safe. I'm also happy to make a strong argument that young people are better citizens if they can code-switch (as LB was describing above), and don't just flail about helplessly if they are in a situation where UMC social skills are inappropriate.

The problem is that in some regions of the US, the schools that are diverse enough to allow you to become fluent in more than one culture are very often physically falling apart, personally dangerous, and equipped with staff who are incompetent, burned out, or totally overwhelmed.

NB: I am not making a claim about all US schools, and I'm not even really arguing with 110.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 10:49 AM
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I don't know the UK educational system, but one of the primary problems I see in the US is that there can be such a stark divide in school quality. I don't think it's a bell curve, at least in some geographic areas.

It's substantially the same here, with huge variation across areas, of course. Some places have more starkly differentiated good-school/bad-school boundaries than others.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 10:52 AM
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e.g. Apo's:

My statement doesn't have anything to do with future material prosperity, but is about present happiness and fulfillment.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 10:52 AM
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It's odd to me that as far as secondary education goes, no one makes the case for a high-quality education being an end in itself.

Probably because a truly high-quality secondary education is one of the best paths to a high-quality tertiary education. Since there is no real conflict between the two, no one needs to justify the better secondary school with the worse odds at a top college by saying "well, the better high school education has its own intrinsic value."

Also, if one is looking at educational and job outcomes, the effects of a top college program probably swamp those of all but the extreme best secondary schools.


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 10:52 AM
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113 to 98.1, to an extent.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 11:00 AM
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It's odd to me that as far as secondary education goes, no one makes the case for a high-quality education being an end in itself. I see it all the time w/r/t college, but hardly ever in the high school context.

I sort of hand-waved at it up above, when I referenced exceptional school with unique opportunities, or whatever I said. But I think that, having been to HS, most people recognize that the possibilities for "a high-quality education being an end in itself" are limited at virtually all HSs. First of all, 15-y.o.s are simply not in a position to achieve remarkable things intellectually - even very, very smart ones will think and say things that are very, very stupid. People make jokes about their college poetry; how much worse was their HS poetry? Obviously there are exceptions, but too few to think about. And regardless, at a school full of knuckleheads (even smart, high-SES knuckleheads), the few super-geniuses won't have much of a chance to do amazing things.

But the main reason I'm not talking about it is that it's irrelevant to this discussion - people afraid to send their kids to Scary Urban School aren't sending them to Sidwell Friends instead; they're sending them to Marginally Superior Suburban High. There are simply vanishingly few public HSs that provide the opportunity for true intellectual excellence.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 11:01 AM
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such a stark divide in school quality

But I think that the data at hand is suggesting that the "stark divide" is a bit of a mirage. Or, rather, the "stark divide" is largely between demographics. Poor kids do poorly at Bad School and Good School, while smart kids do well at Bad School and Good School.

I'm not sure that we have any good data that proves the second part of my previous para; it's an inference from the data LB links, which is (to me) fairly persuasive.

Cala's 108 raises an interesting question. I guess my only thought is that mid-quality kids from mid-quality families will turn out fine; that's who the whole system* is for.

* Not counting the part of the system designed to support the ultra-wealthy


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 11:10 AM
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Poor kids do poorly at Bad School and Good School, while smart kids do well at Bad School and Good School.

The common casual equation of "poor" with "stupid" and "professional class" as "smart" in these conversations really irritates me. It may be statistically sound, but it's not at all true at an individual level.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 11:14 AM
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113 raises a good point, which is why I wasn't committed to there being a Vast Majority of free-lunch kids in urban schools (and should have said 'significant minority.') Even so, I'm not sure the post is supported by the data, since whatever it was, it wasn't a comparison of inner city vs. UMC suburbs.

(Is 'free lunch' equivalent to 'poor'? I remember we qualified for it when I was a kid, but no one would have thought that we were anything but modestly middle class. Same thing with my cousins.)


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 11:14 AM
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Free lunch is 130% of state poverty line. Reduced lunch is up to 185% of poverty line. It's a bit more complicated, in terms of what income is counted, but it's pretty straightforward overall.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 11:48 AM
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Hmm. See, one thing about living in the suburbs is that often the cost of living is lower. My cousins' family definitely were at 130% in the 80s, but a family that lives in an area that feeds into North Allegheny high school and qualifies for a free lunch might well own their own home. I'm not sure it's fair to compare them with a kid in the city whose family is at 130% because less is going towards housing. There's no such thing as a free lunch, and even if there were, they're not all created equal?


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 11:56 AM
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I'm not sure it's fair to compare them with a kid in the city whose family is at 130% because less is going towards housing

A common criticism of our national poverty statistic...


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 11:58 AM
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The common casual equation of "poor" with "stupid" and "professional class" as "smart" in these conversations really irritates me. It may be statistically sound, but it's not at all true at an individual level.

Yeah, I'm actually sorry I did that. Although part of the reason I did was that my argument is that smart kids (with good homelives) can succeed at any school; I doubt that's true of dumb kids who are UMC. I guess my breakdown is:

Poor smart kids - probably do well at a good school, but much less so at bad school
Poor regular and dumb kids - probably do poorly at any school, on the aggregate
MC smart kids - can succeed anywhere
MC regular kids - will perform in general proportion to school quality, but not too high or too low
MC dumb kids - can get by in good school, will do poorly in bad schools.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 11:59 AM
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I don't think that housing in the Hill District costs more than housing in Ross, Cala.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 12:01 PM
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To extend 128 a bit:

As we all know, it's expensive being poor - in the inner city, groceries frequently cost more, low-cost retailers are less accessible, interest rates are higher for poor people, etc. So there's validity to 125/6, but it doesn't get you that far.

Anyway, the logical extension of the suggestion in 125 is that a child of a poor, but stable and home-owning, family in a good school district scores about the same on tests as the child of a family of poor renters in the inner city, which further undermines the premise that inner city schools all suck.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 12:05 PM
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I generally agree with Shearer that much of the perceived differences in school quality are the result of student characteristics. Looking at test scores is a bad way to determine the value added by any specific school. I would keep the kids out of schools where they would get beat up though.


Posted by: Lemmy Caution | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 12:10 PM
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128: If we're talking in terms of where you'd have to live to get the same or similar kind of sq. footage/house, the housing costs more, doesn't it?

And that's not the logical extension I was going for.. I don't know if inner city schools all suck. I'm just saying that if we're taking 'free lunch kid' as a proxy for 'impoverished', it's a poor proxy.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 12:14 PM
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The admissions officers at the Ivy I'm familiar with all know the high schools in their regions well enough that they should be able to distinguish between a weak school and a good school that just happens not to have AP classes.

This effectively supposes that it's okay for Ivies to be, in some sense, regional schools. What about kids from outside the northeast who go to schools without AP courses?


Posted by: Amber | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 12:14 PM
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re: 117

Fair enough. I'm eliding two claims. Present contentedness and future prosperity. It's substantially the latter that's the focus of most of these discussions in the press, but obviously the former can be the primary motivating factor for individual parents.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 12:18 PM
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132: It's my understanding that admissions officers within a single college are in charge of different regions. So Harvard (or whoever) is going to have 20 admissions staff, and 4 of them are going to be responsible for the Northeast US, 4 for the Southeast, etc.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 12:22 PM
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So Harvard (or whoever) is going to have 20 admissions staff, and 412 of them are going to be responsible for the Northeast US, 3 for the Southeast, etcthe rest of the Atlantic coast, 4 for the Pacific Coast, and 1 for the rest of the country.

Fixed that for you.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 12:30 PM
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135 is more like it, if the student body composition is any guide.


Posted by: Amber | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 12:43 PM
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I'd like to register my opposition to the "parents have an obligation to do what's best for their children -- in terms of future material prosperity -- and this trumps everything else" line that's been given a few times above.

Agreed. God fucking forbid the educated upper middle class might give a shit about their children having friends from other socioeconomic groups.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 12:43 PM
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Could we try to avoid talking about kids from other socioeconomic groups like they're just part of the education of the young princelings and princesslings of society? Because it's starting to really weird me out.

One must study music, dancing, painting, rhetoric and the calculus, and have exactly 2.3 friends of ethnic heritage and lower socioeconomic status. Cherished memories will look ever so nice in the college essay.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 12:50 PM
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138 is right.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 12:54 PM
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It's important for kids to grow up to respect brown people, instead of responding to them with fear, confusion and/or contempt like so many kids do these days. But it's also important for kids to use the phrase "brown people" as much as possible, in order to indicate that they would never use a generalization about all minority groups except for one that is both ironic and created entirely for the purposes of sounding awkward and ironic.


Posted by: Fatman | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 12:54 PM
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God fucking forbid the educated upper middle class might give a shit about their children having friends from other socioeconomic groups.

God, you guys are going to kill that poor strawman. Look, Keegan goes to public school in one of the blackest, highest-crime cities in North Carolina. No matter which school he attends, he'll be attending school with kids from every economic background and race. That there are, within that system, some schools that are better than others (especially as concerns kids like K who are at the very top end of the academic curve), is just a fact. And, I should add, a fact that would be confirmed by every teacher in the DPS system.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 12:55 PM
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re: 141

The man isn't straw, Apo.

There are a lot of people who care a great deal about insulating their kids from the lower orders, and that sort of socio-economic segregation is a feature of the education systems of both our countries. Among the middle classes, certainly here and, unless I'm much mistaken, there too, it's pretty much the dominant feature of their approach to education system -- even if it's cast in terms of exam performance and personal fulfillment -- and so exerts a substantial influence on educational policy.

Of course lots of individuals have all kinds of difficult choices to make, and people making perfectly reasonable decisions [reasonable on any/all levels -- political, economic, personal, etc] are going to get lumped in, unfortunately, with those who are legitimate objects of criticism.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 1:04 PM
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If we're talking in terms of where you'd have to live to get the same or similar kind of sq. footage/house, the housing costs more, doesn't it?

I guess you've never seen when I've linked to pics of my house.

I couldn't afford to own a home anywhere but in the city - 3400 SF, $60k. Stereotypical gorgeous old house, needed some work. But even fixed up, it's only worth ~$120k.

I think that the perception that housing costs are always higher in the city compared to the suburbs are skewed by a lot of apples and oranges. And skewed by city neighborhoods with "acceptable" schools - if only one City school is good enough for little EmmaJacob, then housing in that neighborhood is what City housing "costs" - even if it's the priciest part of town.

To put it in common terms, not all neighborhoods are Squirrel Hill, and not all suburbs are USC. Even in the unique case of NYC, there are plenty of suburbs with housing costs comparable to Manhattan, but no one thinks, "Oh, I could never afford suburban New Jersey."


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 1:05 PM
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141: It may be a strawman in the sense that no here is arguing for that position, but I think you would agree that out in the world most educated upper middle class parents don't seem to put much of a priority on their kids having friends from other socioeconomic groups.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 1:07 PM
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138: My point is that most of us here are overeducated, that the problem of "bad" vs. "good" schools is largely a function of white flight, and that being able to afford to live in a "good" school district, where one has to move in order to do so, etc., has a lot to do with income (as does the argument that one is putting one's child into private school because the public schools aren't good enough).

And that if we give a shit about social justice, it's really important for "our" kids not to see "their" kids as different, or as part of an "educational experience" or as part of "diversity" etc. But as *friends*. That's why I used that word.

141, see 142. And also, dude, if it doesn't apply to you, then why assume it does?


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 1:12 PM
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out in the world most educated upper middle class parents don't seem to put much of a priority on their kids having friends from other socioeconomic groups

I'd agree that it isn't much of a priority, yes, because they aren't running a government-mandated diversity program. But not that it's a priority to *keep* their kids from having them. OTOH, being both a product of and a parent in public schools, practically all the parents I talk to also have their kids in the public schools here, so maybe it's just selection bias on my part.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 1:12 PM
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143: Damn, nice find. (And similar income-wise, adjusted I think, to what my cousins' family paid, though Ross has exploded in 20 years. And I do remember you saying the schools where you were were unsafe and that you might not be sending Iris there. (I think.) So, well, the comparison is complicated.)

South of the city seems to have taken off in property values. I remember when Peters was, like, the boonies, and now it's a bunch of cookiecutter giant homes.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 1:17 PM
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re: 146

It's not about public schools versus private education, at least, not from my point of view.

Only about 6% of UK kids are educated privately. Socio-economic segregation isn't, primarily, a state versus private issue.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 1:19 PM
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148: In the US, for the middle class and up, it really is.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 1:22 PM
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the schools where you were were unsafe and that you might not be sending Iris there.

Just the HS. TBH, I don't even know what MS she's targeted for; the one it would've been is now closed, and the district as a whole is heading towards K-8, so who knows?

She'll be in public schools regardless; it's just a question of which magnet she ends up going to (most schools at this point are magnets of one sort or another; if you send your kid to the default neighb school, they'll probably still be in a special curriculum).

But anyway, there's nice houses that are under $150k that feed into decent HSs, but our location gives us other benefits, like walkable everything and busway access Downtown in 15 minutes, including walking to the stop.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 1:28 PM
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Keegan has teh black friends!


Posted by: FL | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 1:29 PM
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Dude, I'd live where you live if I could. I likes me some walkable everything.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 1:31 PM
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151: We're talking about Apo's kid? Then the issue is whether he has any white friends, right?


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 1:34 PM
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146

"I'd agree that it isn't much of a priority, yes, because they aren't running a government-mandated diversity program. But not that it's a priority to *keep* their kids from having them. ..."

I don't have kids but if I did I would prefer they not have lower class friends.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 1:35 PM
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Keegan has teh black friends!

Well, he would if there were any black kids playing hockey down here (which, to the best of my observations, there are not). As it stands, he mostly just has black classmates.

And me.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 1:35 PM
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149

"148: In the US, for the middle class and up, it really is."

What are you saying? There are certainly plenty of affluent school districts in the US.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 1:37 PM
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154: Well, it would probably be best if they didn't have any friends at all, because you might not be able to handle your jealousy, James.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 1:37 PM
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Given the universe's grand sense of humor, I'd love to see what kid it would give Shearer.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 1:37 PM
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I don't have kids but if I did I would prefer they not have lower class friends.

The latter makes the former reassuring.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 1:39 PM
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155: "Black kids I met while playing hockey" is about as long as "black friends I made while yachting," I guess.


Posted by: FL | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 1:39 PM
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155: "Black kids I met while playing hockey" is about as long as "black friends I made while yachting," I guess.


Posted by: FL | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 1:40 PM
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Or twice as long, if you do it that way.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 1:42 PM
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Keegan has black friends when he's drunk.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 1:42 PM
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I'd better get him started drinking, then.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 1:43 PM
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Or twice as long

Racist.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 1:44 PM
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I get the impression that the quality of the school matters more as the kids grow older. At the elementary level we're talking reading and arithmetic, which the parents can easily supplement. I spent my first three years in an ok middle class school, and then two years in a well regarded upper middle class one. No difference that I can remember. Then on to private school in Europe (the original home of the IB) which was quite good on the English speaking side, and pretty mediocre on the French one. But that's because like all private schools there, there was a large number of rich kids who couldn't get into public high schools. The English speakers were mostly expat kids like me.


Posted by: tkm | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 7:14 PM
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