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Social class and education

In my last blog I discussed the importance of social class as a determinant of everything that matters in life.  In this blog I quote a study that stated "Poverty and social disadvantage are most strongly associated with deficits in children's cognitive skills and educational achievements."  Social class strongly correlates with the level of education one receives including the probability of dropping out, which in turn strongly relates to crime and delinquency.


Two recent studies further document the role of social class and education.  More specifically, they concern the correlation between poverty and schooling. One is from the Schott Foundation for Public Education called "A Rotting Apple: Education Redlining in New York City."  The other report was done by the Brookings Institute called "Housing Costs, Zoning, and Access to High-Scoring Schools."


Both reports highlight the significance of social class on public schooling and undermine the tendency when speaking of "reform" of public schooling to focus on the importance of teaching over other variables. The Schott report concludes (p. 4):


"Most, if not all, students in majority middle class Asian and White, non-Latino Queens Community School Districts 25 and 26 (at the far left on the chart) have an opportunity to learn in a high- performing school, where most students are able to achieve at high levels. None of the students in Harlem, Bronx and Brooklyn Community School Districts 5, 7, 12, 13, 16 and 19 (at the far right on the chart) have the opportunity to learn in a high-performing school. The latter districts serve some of the poorest children in the city. Students who live in neighborhoods that are overwhelmingly Black, Latino, or impoverished White or Asian have little opportunity to learn the basic skills needed to succeed on state and national assessments, attend one of the city's selective high schools, or obtain a high school diploma qualifying them for college or a good job."

The findings of this report prompted Pedro Noguera (professor, New York University) to state in the Preface that the "report will show that evidence of blatant disparities amount to Apartheid-like separations that have been accepted in New York for far too long."


 The Bookings Institute report analyzed national and metropolitan data on public school populations and state standardized test scores for a total of 84,077 schools between 2010 and 2011.  The report concluded as follows:


"Nationwide, the average low-income student attends a school that scores at the 42nd percentile on state exams, while the average middle/high-income student attends a school that scores at the 61st percentile on state exams. This school test-score gap is even wider between black and Latino students and white students. There is increasingly strong evidence--from this report and other studies--that low-income students benefit from attending higher-scoring schools (emphasis in original)."

In the introduction of the Brookings report, author Jonathan Rothwell had this to say about current reform efforts:


"While all of these efforts deserve careful consideration, none directly addresses one of the central issues that limit educational opportunity for low-income and minority children: their disproportionate concentration in low-performing schools. In particular, limiting the development of inexpensive housing in affluent neighborhoods and jurisdictions fuels economic and racial segregation and contributes to significant differences in school performance across the metropolitan landscape."

In a chapter devoted to schools and delinquency in one of my books I have a section called "Apartheid Schooling" where I use Jonathan Kozol's latest book "Shame of the Nation."  The subtitle tells it all: The Restoration of Apartheid Schooling in America. Kozol's analysis of the New York public school system found that tracks for "emotionally handicapped," the "learning disabled" and the "educable mentally retarded" are populated by African-American students. Tracks for "speech, language, and hearing impaired" are mostly Latino students. Moreover, these are not routes for improvement or to achieve parity, rather, they are tracks for failure. "Fewer than 10% of children slotted in these special tracks will graduate from school." Kozol also reports that nationwide "black children are three times as likely as white children to be placed in classes for the mentally retarded but only half as likely to be placed in classes for the gifted."


 As I document in this chapter, these kinds of schools and the poverty that surrounds them, lead directly to the "school to prison pipeline" for so many of these children. Reform of schooling and a reduction of the crime problem necessitate addressing the more general issue of inequality in America.  I will further elaborate on the subject of inequality in another blog.

Keywords: economy, education, Randall Shelden

Posted in Blog, Social Justice

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