Inequitites in Education

I first started researching inequities in education in my pre-kid days. Now that I’m a parent, I see it even more clearly.

Jonah is taking a SAT prep class this summer. We can afford it. I am home and available for the chauffeur duties. It’s his only job this summer. And in two weeks, his scores have jumped up enormously. Because the SATs, like all school tests, are a game. Doing well is 50% knowing the material and 50% knowing the “rules.”

Ian is in a fancy camp for high functioning autistic kids. It’s a full day program where they foster social skills, while swimming and going to museums and taking art class. In two weeks, he’s improved a lot. Probably about half the parents are paying for the camp out-of-pocket. The other half live in wealthy school districts that pay for the camp.

I’m thrilled that my boys are doing so well, but there is a layer of guilt in there.

11 thoughts on “Inequitites in Education

  1. I know someone who bought a second home so their kid could go to the right high school. It’s rented out, they don’t even live there! I can’t afford a first home, I’m a renter!

      1. I don’t know if the school district checks whether two kids have the same “home” address.

    1. Well, I think, in most districts, the renters *could* send their kids to the “right” high school. But, the owner, who doesn’t live there, legally can’t.

      I don’t feel guilty about the things I can buy my kids. As long as we live in a capitalist society (and, I do believe the system works better than others humans have tried), some people will have things that others don’t because they have more money.

      But, I do feel angry about the ways that resources that are supposed to be shared by all of us are inequitably allocated and rules are unequally enforced.

      A case in point, out of district school attendance: http://newsfeed.time.com/2011/01/26/ohio-mom-jailed-for-sending-her-kids-to-a-better-school/, while everyone hears of stories of kids who get away with attending a school out of their district.

  2. Of importance to me is to make sure any special information I have is communicated to others who might need it, as broadly as I can (though communicating information often means straddling a gray line of being a busy body).

    For example, I do know that kids SAT scores can go up lots by just studying on the SAT web site (free) and on Kahn Academy (free) and using the SAT books (a lot less expensive than a class.

    1. I’ve been on the receiving end of advice like this more times than I can count. My “Little” (BB/BS) is now 17 and we are in the 8th year of our match. I smile and mumble a thank-you, but what I REALLY want to say is:

      1) she doesn’t have a computer
      2) her apartment doesn’t have internet access
      3) she is working 6 days/week: two part-time minimum-wage jobs and she is going to school.
      4) no car, so she relies on the unreliable city bus schedule to get everywhere
      5) she is the only one in her family working, so she is currently supporting 7 people.
      6) no one in her family has ever graduated from high school, never mind taken the SAT

      I also get “She should go to the library for internet and books if she can’t afford them” and so on…

      The structural inequities around childhood poverty are so deep and so complicated. I buy her books, of course, and we go on Kahn Academy at my house all the time, but it hardly makes a dent. She’s so bright and amazing and kind….and yet, some days, it’s really hard to have much hope for her future.

  3. Most of the research on SAT improvement suggests that you usually get about a 1/2 standard deviation (50 points) if you study – either with a tutor, a class, or doing tests on your own. That was the experience of my kids, who had middling PSATs and high-middling SATs after tutoring.

    Now, Steve Sailer says that Chuck Schumer (who lets the world know he got 800s) was one of the kids working for Stanley Kaplan, took the test many many times to memorize questions and bring them back for the early Kaplan tutoring sessions, and after all that practice ended up with 800s. But, Chuck Schumer is a very smart guy. And, if you didn’t know it already, just ask him.

  4. I think bj and dave s. are correct about the SAT.

    My dad was a Tiger Dad before Tiger Dads were cool, and we had a $20 or so SAT practice test book or two and I just worked my way through the tests (with help as needed on the math) timing myself and checking the answers in the back and gradually bumping my scores up.

    As my dad (a math MA and nowadays a community college math teacher) says, there are only so many good math questions. And that’s even more true with the SAT–the SAT has only a handful of types of math problems. You don’t need to know a lot, but you need to have a high degree of facility in a small area of math.

    SAT practice is important both academically, but just as importantly psychologically. It’s important to demystify the SAT through exposure and to remove the fear from the experience as much as possible.

    1. We spent about a grand on tutoring for our number one, he got SAT scores about 1/2 standard deviation higher than would have been expected from his PSAT scores. This was about fifty points, so in the expected range of improvement. He was kinda marginal for the state schools on which he had set his heart, and he got in to one for which he would have been less competitive if his scores had been a little lower.

      From our point of view, absolutely worth it. From a social equity point of view dreadful, we could afford the tutoring and find the tutor, poorer kids would not get this.

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