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This concerns me as well. It seems to me that holding back white and Asian students, and white and Asian people in general, is a stated goal of the current batch of anti-racist profiteers.

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The dumbest” policy ever

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There was absolutely no withholding of National Merit scholarships. That's bullshit. It's an outright lie, and the women who made a big deal out of it are activists. I wrote about it here:

https://educationrealist.wordpress.com/2023/01/01/how-were-tjhsst-commended-students-harmed/

Don't repeat stupid shit.

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Yes, it is. If you don't understand why, then try this one:

https://educationrealist.wordpress.com/2022/12/28/whats-a-national-merit-scholar/

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Wrong again, and it's pretty clear you can't read.

Your claim: "And that's on top of holding back National Merit Scholarships from the kids who earned them, because equity again"

I am absolutely certain that did not happen, and in fact there was never a charge made that on this point. You just don't know enough to understand it.

So start here: National Merit Semifinalists were announced on time in September. National Merit *finalists* will be announced sometime in a couple months. No scholarships were withheld.

Your revealed stupidity in focusing on my opinion: "I’m reasonably certain TJ’s administrators simply overlooked notifying National Merit Commended students" is that you think National Merit Commended has anything to do with National Merit Scholarships. It doesn't. Far lower standard. Which I wrote about in both links.

Focus hard: every single National Merit Semifinalist, who are the only ones that could be eligible for scholarships, was notified on time, three months before this story broke.

The kids who weren't notified were *not* National Merit Semifinalists, and therefore *not* National Merit FInalists, and therefore NOT National Merit Scholarship winners and in addition (and this is contrary to the lies by the hacks shrieking about it) were NOT uniquely eligible for any scholarships that used PSAT scores.

My opinion about *that* notification, which is nothing more than a participation trophy, is that the schools didn't do it on purpose. In fact, in the case of Thomas Jefferson, it's largely proven they didn't do it for that reason, and the hacks pushing this story lied about it. None of the other schools had any reason to deny the notifications. It's a nothing award.

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Mar 29, 2023·edited Mar 29, 2023

Thanks for this round-up, I ultimately end up in a different place, focusing more on absolute gains and criterion tests. I do think education will tend to lead to higher median incomes and that education has been a great *international* leveler even if it has not been a great leveler within nations. But I think you rightly hammer our tendency to see education as a cure for relative difference.

I really appreciate this post and will make note of it as reference for when discussing these issues in the future (and I'll mention that people should check out your book for more details).

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Mar 29, 2023Liked by Freddie deBoer

We should educate people to their abilities and provide for their material needs as a society.

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author

Yes, that exactly.

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Freddie's central point is so important, in part, because by ruling out things that can't be improved, it helps reformers focus on what can be. My personal hobby horse in education reform is that there is one very important set of skills/traits that absolutely can be improved: discipline/conscientiousness. While people have different levels of endogenous conscientiousness, it is absolutely possible to improve a person's discipline, organization. The military has proved this comprehensively. This trait is also closely associated with a variety of good life outcomes.

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The fact that we allow a relative few number of disruptive students to destroy the learning environment for the majority in many schools is obscene. We need to set some disciplinary standards and rigorously enforce them. The recent school shooting in Colorado is a good example. Why was a student who had to be searched everyday for weapons allowed to be anywhere near a school? The brains of some school administrators appear to simply be inoperative.

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There is a lot to respond to in this piece (much of which I agree with) but I will focus on one point: "Fund Schools to Fund Them."

I think I disagree somewhat with FdB about whether additional education funding will improve outcomes — FdB is skeptical; my view is that the research that has been conducted in this area only shows to demonstrate that when schools are egregiously underfunded, marginal improvements make little difference.

That said, I agree 100% with FdB that public schools should be better funded regardless of outcomes because children should have safe, comfortable, and pleasant schools. John Kenneth Galbraith remarked 50+ years ago that the USA underfunds its public goods relative to its wealth — "private opulence and public squalor" — and if you ever have occasion to look in on an urban public school you will see that. Ancient, unventilated buildings with lead water pipes, terrible food, athletic facilities that have not been updated in decades, etc. They need not be palaces, but could they be as pleasant as Class B shopping malls?

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Mar 29, 2023·edited Mar 30, 2023

"For example, Asian students whose parents make between $30k-$40k score similarly on the SAT Math to white students whose parents make $70K and up."

How many of those Asian kids are immigrants or children of immigrants? I suspect an outsized proportion, relative to the US human population at large.

Which merely shows again that not nostrums but attitude is the single most salient factor. Give those children of immigrants nothing but a chalkboard and they would still outperform, because their parents ride their children's asses like they were trying to win the Kentucky Derby.

The overachiever straight A first generation immigrant Stanford grad of unremarkable raw intellect and no real curiosity is pretty much a trope, as is the slacker genius.

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They also prep endlessly, generally with paid tutoring, which calls their income into question. Lots and lots of fraud in Asian immigrant community.

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founding

Terrific post.

Consistent with your views, the 2021 Child Tax Credit was exactly where we should be headed as a poverty fighting tool as opposed to more educational spending. It was a tragedy that it lasted only one year.

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author

A line from one of the old pieces I linked to here that I should have lifted - mobility is necessarily antagonistic to equality.

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Mar 29, 2023·edited Mar 29, 2023

I'd love to hear more thoughts about the changes that led to the drastic improvements in academic performance by girls/women and if there is anything from that success that is applicable to other underperforming groups. It seems the changes that triggered the massive shift were access to education paired with improved social conditions followed by raising expectations over time as opportunities increased.

I think of Title IX as primarily impacting sports these days, but it mandated equal access in lots of other ways. That seems like a success story for a top down approach to improving education results for a specific group.

Are there similar structural barriers impacting access to education for under performing groups that could be addressed in a similar way? My instinct is to agree with Freddie and to address the impact of poverty on kids' academic performance not through education reform but by economic assistance to improve their day-to-day lives.

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author

I suspect that gendered expectations played a role in the prior gender gap - women weren't expected to perform well in school, so they tried less hard and a lot of opportunities were restricted, even if only unconsciously. A concerted feminist effort helped to erase those expectations. Would changing expectations help students of color too? I dunno. We've thrown so much at the wall and so little has stuck. But it couldn't hurt.

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Mar 29, 2023·edited Mar 29, 2023

I think once equal access is provided and is paired with improved social conditions (which cannot be controlled through education reform), raising expectations can help. But, I'm wondering whether you think there are access barriers that currently exist, since those could be legit targets for top down reform.

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In the early 70s, many women also started to enter/reenter the workforce. If you see that your mom has fewer opportunities to get ahead, it's motivating to do better in school so you're not stuck in her position.

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I'm an 80s child, born to working class parents. My mom's job or lack of job didn't really affect me one way or another. But I'm gifted and I was allowed to proceed as gifted throughout school, my guess is girls wouldn't be put through those programs in the past.

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Mar 29, 2023·edited Mar 29, 2023

I saw an interesting YouTube, of all things, that linked to an economist who argues that the washing machine was the ultimate cause of a the largest economic expansion on record (he argued it was a more important invention than the integrated circuit).

I would extend this arguement to vacuums, prepared foods, and other home appliances and conveniences because of the many hours per week of labor it freed up. Before this, only wealthy women had free time for education, politics, etc. After such technological and industrial advances, all women save huge time (women specifically given 19th and early 20th century society). This extra time saved enabled them to have the time for paid employment, etc. Thus, the middle and working class could be freed in practice to pursue education, personal empowerment, etc.

From this line of reasoning, the women's movement and cultural change was the result of technological progress as much as the usual argument which is more vice versa.

[This might be an old hat argument to feminism but I hadn't seen it outside of conservative conversations before.]

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Actually, almost of all of the "girls are doing better in school" is high school grades and college degrees.

High school grades are conscientiousness, not ability. Given that boys basically tie girls in test scores (or do better), it's much more accurate to say that grades are biased against boys than that girls are outperforming boys.

As for college degrees, most of the degrees girls get are useless or low paying. Not much point in being upset because a girl gets a business degree and becomes a secretary while a boy joins the military and becomes an electrician or a plumber.

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"most of the degrees girls get are useless or low paying."

This was sloppy, I just noticed. I mean that a large chunk of the margin of girls increase over boys is in relatively low paying degrees (social work, business, elem ed). Most of the pink collar jobs came around late and so were shunted through college. Most blue collar jobs were not.

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My elementary school back in the late 60's sorted students into three groups I'm assuming based on academic ability. Part of the day all groups worked together, other parts of the day the lessons were separate. Junior high and High schools were similar having different obvious tracks. I'm guessing these things are no longer done, is that true? Although I know my sister in Manhattan has quite a bit of flexibility on school choice and had two daughters, one academically gifted. My sister sent them to different schools based on their abilities and interests. Can a Manhattan-like system carry over everywhere?

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author

Tracking is a very thorny topic. The general knee-jerk liberal reaction is that tracking is bad because students who get sorted to the lower tracks are having their futures foreclosed on and will receive less time and attention. On the other hand, not tracking at all just doesn't work - you can't run a math class where some students are getting Algebra I and some are getting calculus. There's no consensus on whether tracking hurts or helps. Germany has a two-track system for students aged 12ish and up, vocational and college, and it works well for them. But then the industrial sector is much healthier in Germany than in the United States. I personally support soft tracking, meaning that parents can move students out of their assigned track if they so choose.

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It's cruel to under challenge gifted children just as it's cruel to expect lower intelligence children to perform to a level they can't reach. Education can't only be judged on where the child ends up as an adult but how much they can stand it/enjoy in the present.

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Thank you so much for this.

As a High School Librarian in the public school system for over 25 years your writing is the most an accurate assessment of our educational system today, so refreshing.

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Yes, the same at the University level.

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I seriously recommend going into Freddie's archives and reading all his old stuff, even back to the very first available piece. It's generally excellent.

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I think a comparison of spending per student at the top 10 public high schools as compared to ten failing schools would be really helpful in moving this topic forward. With spending to include Federal/state/local/private/other funding, if that information is available. Because the idea that poor performance is tied to poor funding is baked in to this topic.

You addressed this funding issue in your original article, and I came away wondering what is the simplest way to show that "richer countries, states, school districts, and schools simply didn’t reliably outperform poorer"? (The suggestion above is an attempt to provide a simple comparison, but there is likely a better way.)

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In this piece, when I mention that more funding does not reliably lead to better outcomes, I link to a piece in which I made exactly that case.

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"Fads come and go." They sure do. I am a product of the California public education system of the 60's and 70's, which means that (despite some excellent teachers) it's a miracle I can read or write at all. For example, I lost my entire fourth grade year. Why? Was I laid up in bed with polio? Nah. I was in an "open classroom" where students were encouraged to chart their own course, let their natural love of learning be the real teacher blah blah blah. I fell so far behind in math that year that it took me until college to catch up, but I did listen to a helluva lot of Cheech and Chong at the "listening center." That fad was thankfully short lived, but what it cost me was real.

My question is why is education so subject to fads as opposed to other fields? I assume that aren't any fads in aeronautical engineering or farming - not the way there are in education, anyway. Why?

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Because when so many things are ultimately proven not to work, people go ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

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I think part of the reason is that failure in education fads is less clear-cut and immediate than failure in other arenas. If you come up with a novel, incorrect, way to determine the necessary amount of rocket fuel, your rocket explodes on the launchpad. It's a pretty clear sign not to do that again. Likewise, if you try a new fertilizer and your soybean yields increase 15%, that's also a pretty clear sign. Most of the rockets and soybean fields will respond in the same way to the new regime, so the lesson will be obvious.

It doesn't work that way with educating kids. Some kids will learn even if the new way of teaching them is completely incoherent - some are smart enough to figure it out anyway, some have parents that fill in the gaps, some just happen to mesh better with the new method so it's great for them. And since some kids weren't learning under the old standard - otherwise why would there be a new way? - the connection between success/failure and the cause of that success/failure is blurrier. The response is often to tweak the new method, trying to get the good parts up and the bad parts down, until after several years it becomes clear(er) that this new way isn't working, either., and it's back to the drawing board for the next fad

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People desperately want to believe that you can fix stupid.

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I’m shocked by how many people think all kids are equal when they also know they aren’t.

For example you can’t be a doctor or an engineer with an IQ below 100. You need at least one standard deviation higher. IQ is highly heritable. If you have a town full of doctors and engineers their children will also have IQs roughly one standard deviation above 100.

At the other extreme one major cause of poverty is low ability. With an IQ below 85 earning enough to get by becomes increasingly difficult. If you have a town populated by folks with an IQ a standard deviation below 100 their kids will also tend to have IQs one standard deviation below 100.

But when the school A is performing very well and school B is performing poorly it’s the fault of the school.

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Thanks for this. Whenever the topic comes about about education and how to "fix" it, I use a lot of your points to debate... especially on the "throw more money at schools" route that has been proven to not really work.

People truly don't know that so many of these education interventions ... for decades....have failed and continue to fail.

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This a great article, paired with the previous one.

Giving money to parents without strings also seems to improve non-academic outcomes as well. Canada made a lot of strides from 2000 to 2017 along this vein. Unfortunately, the lessons from that success weren't learned.

More recently, rather than putting money in the hands of families, the current government fixed prices through subsidies, effectively nationalizing the pre-school industry at the federal level. This destroyed a lot of spots, especially high quality ones. The result is higher costs without improving outcomes. And now the entrenched interests will be nearly impossible to dislodge.

Given that industrialization turned children into liabilities, it's really not surprising that shifting resources from those without children to those with children has a broad impact on children. It's too bad though that so often we feel the need to insert an industry in between the resources and those who could make the best use of it.

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