The Science component of “The Nation’s Report Card” was released today and clearly indicates that we have moved one step closer as a nation in two of our most important goals: Building a large and complacent poorly educated low-pay labor class, and increasing the size of our science-illiterate populace in order to allow the advance of medieval morality and Iron Age Christian values.
The “Nation’s Report Card” is meant to report academic achievement of K-12 students, and is conducted by the US Department of Education as part of the National Assessment of Educational Progress. The current report covers 4th and 8th grade science results, and has some information on 12 grade science, for urban school districts in Atlanta, Austin, Baltimore City, Boston, Charlotte, Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit, Fresno, Houston, Jefferson County Kentucky, Los Angeles, Miami-Dade, Milwaukee, New York City, Philadelphia, and San Diego.
For fourth grade science, Austin, Charlotte and Jefferson County look like the rest of the nation … scores are statistically the same. For eight grade Austin looks like the rest of the nation. For both grades, all other cities performed below the average for the nation.
The fourth grade results are summarized in this chart:
The 8th grade results are summarized in this chart:
The study clearly shows the expected: Poverty determines the outcome of the results, and this is probably exacerbated in urban zones where private schools siphon off the small number of higher-income kids. Just to be clear, it is not the case that low performing students thus become poor, but rather, conditions of poverty cause innumerable problems in school and generate poorly funded schools, which in turn cause low performance, which can then feed back to cause lower performance and sustained poverty.
This is an ideal situation if the objective is to maintain a poorly educated low paid working class.
What is being tested?
The so called “New Science Framework” outlines specific knowledge to be covered in schools and tested on tests such as this one. Here is a summary of the Science Content Areas:
Physical science includes concepts related to properties andchanges of matter, forms of energy, energy transfer and conservation, position and motion of objects, and forces affecting motion.
Life science includes concepts related to organization and development, matter and energy transformations, interdependence, heredity and reproduction, and evolution and diversity.
Earth and space sciences include concepts related to objects in the universe, the history of the Earth, properties of Earth materials, tectonics, energy in Earth systems, climate and weather, and biogeochemical cycles.
The test uses multiple choice and “constructed-response” (open ended) questions. Here’s a couple of examples:
So, what does the report say needs to be done?
Well, nothing. The report includes the word “poverty” twice in the same paragraph and never does that word occur on the same page as the word “cause” which, in turn, occurs only once. Here:
Although comparisons are made in students’ performance based on demographic characteristics, the results cannot be used to establish a cause-and-effect relationship between student characteristics and achievement. Many factors may influence student achievement, including educational policies and practices, available resources, and demographic characteristics of the student body.
Clearly, the US Department of Education is keeping their lantern under a hat. The report makes no mention of the success that the increased disparity in income has had in reshaping our educational system. Since the US Department of Education has not bothered to discuss this link, I’ve done it for you. The following is a simple regression of data from all of the districts, showing average fourth grade test score per district on “free and reduced lunch” percentage, which is a very good indicator of poverty:
For social science data, that’s pretty damn good. Poverty causes lousy education. It’s working great!
Now, if only we can finally do in the Teachers Unions. That is the last thing keeping us from having a true Peasant Society. Almost there. Keep an eye on Wisconsin.
UPDATE: I just attended a press conference with the DOE marking the release of this report. I and others asked questions about causality and what to do about the low scores. All such questions were responded to with a two-pronged approach: 1) We can’t speak of causality because correlation does not equal causality and 2) We think really cool programs in schools will fix this. A third comment was made as well which is encouraging: The data are available for further study.
I asked the specific question: “Can you say anything about increasing wealth disparity and poverty in general and these low scores.” And of course, they won’t say that. This is a Bush-era study after all. The idea of any link between poverty and education was rejected because the present study did not have that in the sample design.
I did not ask the obvious follow-up question: “But… do you not know that performance in schools and poverty have been liked in countless studies?” A small sampling of studies linking SES, health, and education:
Hannon, Lance. 2003. Poverty, Delinquency, and Educational Attainment: Cumulative Disadvantage or Disadvantage Saturation? Sociological Inquiry. Volume 73, Issue 4, pages 575-594, November 2003
Data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (NLSY) were analyzed to test two competing hypotheses regarding how poverty affects the relationship between delinquency and educational attainment. The cumulative-disadvantage perspective argues that poor youth suffer greater consequences for their involvement in delinquency than middle- and upper-class youth in terms of their educational attainment. Contrary to this perspective, the disadvantage-saturation thesis predicts that delinquency is less con-sequential for the educational attainment of poor youth than it is for nonpoor youth. Results from ordinary least squares and logistic regression analyses support the latter hypothesis. Theoretical and policy implications are discussed.
Brown, Ryan et. al. 2009. Family and community influences on educational outcomes among appalachian youth. Journal of Community Psychology. Volume 37, Issue 7, pages 795-808, September 2009.
Recent research has shown how quantifiable aspects of community context affect a wide range of behaviors and outcomes. Due partially to the historical development of this field, currently published work focuses on urban rather than rural areas. We draw upon data from a longitudinal study of families and health in Appalachia–the Great Smoky Mountains Study (GSMS), and an ethnographically based interview tool–the Life Trajectory Interview for Youth (LTI-Y), to examine the impact of community and family poverty and educational attainment on educational goals and attainment among rural white youth (n=200). Exposure to family poverty and more educated parents were associated with youths’ educational attainment. Meanwhile, both community education levels and parental education were associated with college goal-setting. These relationships were particularly strong among rural white males. This evidence suggests that more attention should be focused on how rural environments affect the lives and life chances of their inhabitants.
Conroy, Kathleen MD; Sandel, Megan MD, MPH; Zuckerman, Barry MD. 2010. Poverty Grown Up: How Childhood Socioeconomic Status Impacts Adult Health. Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics: February/March 2010 – Volume 31 – Issue 2 – pp 154-160 doi: 10.1097/DBP.0b013e3181c21a1b
Socioeconomic status and health status are directly related across the world. Children with low-socioeconomic status not only experience greater health problems in childhood but also aspects of their socioeconomic status become biologically incorporated through both critical periods of development and cumulative effects, leading to poor health outcomes as adults. We explore 3 main influences related to child’s socioeconomic status that impact long-term health: the material environment, the social environment, and the structural or community environment. These influences illustrate the importance of clinical innovations, health services research, and public policies that address the socioeconomic determinants of these distal health outcomes.
Most of the other questions were from local reporters seeking interesting things to say about their own district’s results.