In the course of a long post explaining that poor children are educationally doomed, Valerie Strauss says:
…we need to accept this reality: The strongest predictor of student success in school has long been family income and parents’ education level. So we can applaud and shower with attention the students and teachers and schools that beat the odds, but it’s a bad idea to pretend that the exceptions are anything but exceptions.
New statistics released by the Census Bureau this week show that three out of 10 children in the nation’s capital were living in poverty last year, with the number of poor African American children rising at a breathtaking rate.
Among black children in the city, childhood poverty shot up to 43 percent, from 36 percent in 2008 and 31 percent in 2007. That was a much sharper increase than the two percentage-point jump, to 36 percent, among poor black children nationwide last year.
Does this affect the city’s public school system?
You bet it does, even if D.C. Schools Superintendent Michelle Rhee likes to say that it is just an “excuse.”
In addition to more students being poor, it’s probably safe to assume that most students who were poor in 2007 are even more poor now. There’s no doubt that the recession has been terrible for economically distressed families in Washington, DC. So, naturally, given the Straussian theory of economic determinism in education, there must have been a corresponding decline in student performance in DC from 2007 to 2009.
Instead, the opposite happened. The rate of black fourth graders in DC scoring above Basic on the NAEP math exam increased from 45 to 50 percent. For low-income students, the rate increased from 43 to 48 percent. Both increases were statistically significant. For low-income 8th graders, 28 to 34 percent. For black 8th graders, 31 to 36 percent. 4th grade reading? 29 to 35 percent for low-income students, 33 to 37 percent for black students. (8th grade reading scores increased too, although not at statistically significant level.)
In other words, Michelle Rhee said poverty was no excuse for her own performance, and then delivered.
The Answer Sheet, meanwhile, continues to be a kind of perfect, unfiltered expression of education policy revanchism.