In working on my master’s thesis, many studies and my own analysis showed that mother’s educational attainment is one of the strongest (or the strongest) correlate to children’s educational attainment, even controlling for things like race/ethnicity, income level, and family structure.
This morning’s article from the Washington Post suggests that the same is true for infant and child health:
It turns out that pencils and books for mothers may be as important as vaccines and drugs for babies in reducing child mortality in the developing world.
That’s because a mother’s education level has a huge, if indirect, effect on the health of her children. That relationship, observed in many small studies in rich countries, turns out to be true everywhere on the globe, according to a new study.
Half the reduction in child mortality over the past 40 years can be attributed to the better education of women, according to the analysis published in the journal Lancet. For every one-year increase in the average education of reproductive-age women, a country experienced a 9.5 percent decrease in the child deaths.
A typically mind-twisting, yet common-sensical, observation from the folks at Freakonomics.Tweet
Agreed on Ravitch, and I enjoy reading her Bridging Differences blog at edweek.com, when she’s not mercilessly promoting her new book. And while Milwaukee isn’t the first study to question the relative advantage provided by voucher programs, it’s the largest and longest running study, and one that voucher advocates have been looking to for vindication. Which got me thinking further about yesterday’s post.
Voucher advocates who promote vouchers as a solution for education in the U.S. face a huge challenge. In order to be successful, they need to prove two different things, each of which is both difficult and somewhat opposed to the other:
- Advocates must show that private or religious schools offer a better educational option than available public schools for low-income.
- Voucher programs must be run in a way that they don’t create a new system of winners and losers, with the lottery losing children having lower outcomes as a result of missing out than they would have had in the absence of such a program.
Each of these is difficult to demonstrate, and most of the ways in which statistics show evidence of one calls into question the other. The Milwaukee study, like that recent early evidence from the DC voucher program, shows some rather compelling evidence for #2 (hold harmless), but in doing so, it largely invalidates the argument for #1 (urgent need answered by vouchers).
In a sense, it is much easier to do what Murray now seeks to do, which is to step away from the ‘measurable effectiveness’ approach to promoting school choice, and to move forcefully to the political approach of validating the importance of personal or family choice.
That argument is made primarily on the political level, and it focuses on whether the nation and our states and cities should allow public taxpayer funds to support private education. In arguing on these grounds, legitimate differences in philosophy and opinion remain. However, this battleground does not require voucher advocates to address the burden of statistical evidence that vouchers—like so many education reform approaches—have thus far failed to deliver.Tweet
Why not instead finally acknowledge that standardized test scores are a terrible way to decide whether one school is better than another? This is true whether the reform in question is vouchers, charter schools, increased school accountability, smaller class sizes, better pay for all teachers, bonuses for good teachers, firing of bad teachers — measured by changes in test scores, each has failed to live up to its hype…
…As an advocate of school choice, all I can say is thank heavens for the Milwaukee results. Here’s why: If my fellow supporters of charter schools and vouchers can finally be pushed off their obsession with test scores, maybe we can focus on the real reason that school choice is a good idea. Schools differ in what they teach and how they teach it, and parents care deeply about both, regardless of whether test scores rise."
Charles Murray (yes, the Bell Curve co-author) takes the recent finding that Milwaukee’s school choice program didn’t return significantly higher test score results for the students who used vouchers to go to private schools, as a reason to get rid of standardized tests as the basis of assessing school effectiveness. (Why Charter Schools Fail the Test - NYTimes.com)
While I appreciate Dr. Murray’s conclusion that standardized tests are extremely limited, by design, it is striking for two reasons:
- When the evidence changes, so does the guiding assumption behind why school choice is important. (I realize that Murray made his personal shift a few years ago, but as he admits, this is not the first study to show a lack of big test score changes).
- A man whose career/public persona was catapulted by a book that inflamed the nation on the basis of standardized (IQ) tests, is now saying, at least in terms of schools, that maybe they don’t mean so much after all.
• Elizabeth Warren’s Toaster Theory of Credit Cards: “You know there were two ways you could have gone in the toaster market. If you had no safety standards, there would be a way to make profits. Take out the insulation. Because the insulation costs money, right? Use the cheaper wiring. And if one in every five toasters bursts into flames, too bad. Customers can`t tell the difference. You`ll make nice profits. But no, we said we`re going to have some basic safety stuff. And do your competition for toasters, but how do we compete in the toaster market? Boy, we compete on color and design and price, and you know, toasters that also play “Battle Hymn of the Republic” or whatever it is. But it`s a market that works because nobody is competing by tricking people.”
• We have to have banks. We can`t barter pigs for haircuts. I get that. We can`t run this economy without it.”
• “My first choice is a strong consumer agency. My second choice is no agency at all and plenty of blood and teeth left on the floor.”"
Elizabeth Warren Quotes (more great ones at: The Folksy Wisdom of Elizabeth Warren)
You may recognize her as the head of the Congressional Oversight Panel for the Troubled Asset Relief Program and someone you may have seen being all awesome in a variety of TV interviews (including several guest spots on The Daily Show) over the last year.Tweet
Roland Fryer on why it is so hard for researchers to find the “secret” behind the effectiveness of the Harlem Children’s Zone. Because HCZ involves so many different interventions, programs, and strategies at both the community and school levels, it is difficult to identify which components—separately or together—are driving the positive effects.Tweet
While a (overly) simplistic analysis, this quick mashup indicates that university with high student levels of alcohol consumption are not necessarily suffering diminished student success, at least if you define success by graduation rates.
Schools rated as “party schools,” however, seem to see a corresponding decline in graduation rates, when compared to “stone cold sober” schools.
Something tells me Henry Wechsler would have some problems with this analysis.
Update: A quick look at the comments thread in the linked post shows that the comparison was done more than a bit tongue-in-cheek, but as I’m sure it intended, it has sparked some interesting discussion on what the numbers may or may not say.Tweet