Another Blow to the Teacher-Quality-Trumps-Poverty Meme

Two weeks ago, The American Prospect published an article that used Joel Klein’s life story as a counter-argument to his proposition that teacher quality is the most important determinant of educational outcomes. A study released this week by the Annenberg Institute for School Reform at Brown University also packs a punch.

“Is Demography Still Destiny: Neighborhood Demographics and Public High School Students’ Readiness for College in New York City” was released to the public October 23, 2012. It shows that the effort to create a portfolio of options for city public school students has not made an impact on the gross disparity of outcomes in a city that cleaves along the lines of class and race – especially race. The study should be called “Demography Is Destiny,” which is what AISR titled the PDF itself.

Click to read the AISR’s abstract and to download the PDF.


5 Comments to “Another Blow to the Teacher-Quality-Trumps-Poverty Meme”

  1. This is so true. Glad to see that the “Magic” Bloomberg pill was a failure. This news should be spread across the country.


  2. Brava, Edit, for posting this study. As with austerity economics, though, the teacher quality meme is backed by Very Serious People (thank you, Paul Krugman) and so will continue to crowd out science in the mass media.


  3. Thank you, Alec! We should look at Minnesota. I’m afraid people interested in expanding charter schools in the name of “choice” may be looking at it for the wrong reasons. Ember Reichgott Junge, author of your “pioneering” charter school law, gave a five minute talk in Baltimore last month as part of a TED-like series called Ignite. The topic of the evening was education, and the event was hosted by a Baltimore City charter school.

    Present-day charter school proponents don’t seem to know that there is a dark side to the charter history of St. Paul. And Ms. Reichgott Junge seems still to dominate the narrative. It seems she’s touring a little to promote her new book, Zero Chance of Passage. Please send me some articles/links/book titles that tell the other side of the St. Paul story, and I will take a good look.


    • Sadly there is not much literature out there. St. Paul, which is the largest district in the state, recently went back to a neighborhood model instead of citywide bussing because their own data revealed poor, minority kids did better in neighborhood schools rather than choice schools.

      The lack of information should be telling though, because choice is the magic bullet of the market reformers. It has had 20 years to work, and you know if it did, they’d be trumpeting it up and down the line.

      When they look at our “beating the odds” charter schools, they neglect to tell things like they have fewer special ed or ELL students and they often dismiss and suspend at twice the rate of traditional public schools. The most touted beating the odds charter, for example, out performs on reading and math, but literally gets zeros on the science tests. Zero. COuld it be more obvious all they do is reading and math and suspend?


  4. This is not new!!! Minnesota has had universal, fully transported, unrestricted school choice for 20+ years. Charters also started here. Choice was going to be the magic bullet. In St. Paul we bused 89% of our students, even though most lived within walking distance of a school.

    We did Bloomberg’s magic bullet for 20 years. The achievement gap it was meant to hit is still worst and the nation AND racial isolation got worse. My 1900 kid high school is 95% non-white 90% poverty in a city that is only 60% non-white.

    So, the magic bullet missed it’s target and made things worse.
    The reality is, those already ahead had the savvy, experience, and access to leverage the choice system to their best benefit. Those in poverty were less able to leverage the choice system, and it made things worse!

    We are now going back to neighborhood and regional schools. Bloomberg did not experiment on New York kids. He took a system that is known, without a doubt, to make things worse for poor kids while simultaneously enriching those already ahead.

    School choice is not a new experiment that will fix education. I know we are flyover country, but at least we already discovered what these wretched programs do to poor kids. Can anyone look at us?


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