Friday, April 05, 2013

Family, not area, is key to a child's education: Children with parents who spent extra year in education get better grades

"Family" is a very vague term to use in this context.  "Inherited IQ" would capture the facts better

The positive impact a parent can have on a child’s education is more important than where they live, a new study suggests.

Growing up in an impoverished area is often blamed for holding back children academically.

But a report’s findings indicate it is the attitude towards education within their family unit that really matters.

The research involved two groups of disadvantaged children in cities across England, all of whom were waiting to move into social housing in some of the most deprived neighbourhoods.

One group moved in between one and three years before their Key Stage 3 tests at 14. The other started living there afterwards.

When their performance in the tests was measured, both groups had almost identical average scores.

Dr Felix Weinhardt, who conducted the research, said: ‘We have always tried to help the most disadvantaged children to get better life chances and one of the ways we thought we could do this is through housing policy.

‘But research now increasingly tells us that bad neighbourhood environments have no causal influence on these children’s school performances at all.’

The postdoctoral fellow in the London School of Economics’ Centre for Economic Performance added: ‘These two groups of students really get very bad grades - very similar to students who live in high-density social housing neighbourhoods and never moved.

‘This means that we definitely should think about ways to help them improve their school achievements but we cannot do it through housing policy.’

The paper - Neighbourhood Quality and Student Performance - considered whether living in a ‘bad neighbourhood’ could lead to a ‘locking-in of the disadvantaged into a poverty trap’.

A total of 2,094 children were followed. All were waiting to move with their families into neighbourhoods with at least 80 per cent of social tenants.

These areas are characterised by ‘very high unemployment and extremely low qualification rates, high building density, rooms over-crowding and low house prices’, the report said.

The people who live there are ‘more likely to be depressed, unemployed, cigarette smokers [and] obese’.

Dr Weinhardt used the average performance in the three core subjects - English, maths and science - and combined them to create an overall score with a maximum of 100.

The group that moved into the impoverished areas before their Key Stage 3 exam scored an average of 33. Those that moved in later managed just 33.6.

The data took into account variables such as ‘negative shocks’ that leave better-off families suddenly in need of social housing and other factors including ethnicity, free school meal status and previous test scores.

Dr Weinhardt concluded: ‘The main finding of this study is that early movers into deprived social housing neighbourhoods experience no negative effects on their school attainment relative to late movers.’

The paper is due to be presented today at the Royal Economic Society’s annual conference in London.

It is complemented by another study at the conference which links an increase in the minimum school leaving age with improved academic performance in the next generation.

The children of parents who spend one extra year in education typically achieve one grade higher in two GCSEs or two grades higher in one GCSE than other pupils, it found.

The research was based on the children of 19,966 people affected by the 1972 reform of the school leaving age from 15 to 16.

It will be of particular interest to Education Secretary Michael Gove, who is overseeing a rise in the leaving age to 17 this year and 18 in 2015.

Previous research has found those who remain in education of training until 18 earn more money, are healthier and are less likely to break the law.

Professor Alan Smithers, director of the Centre for Education and Employment Research at Buckingham University, said: ‘The research shows that where somebody lives is much less important than what they carry around with them.

‘This includes what their interests are, how much support they get from their parents and how much their parents care about good education - which they can provide directly to their child and by finding them a good school to go to.’


Non-elite colleges more bigoted?

Many of you probably have heard about the shocking case of Ryan Rotela, a devout Mormon student at Florida Atlantic University, who along with his classmates, was assigned by his professor to write the name JESUS in big letters on a piece of paper and then step on the paper. When Rotela complained about the assignment, the college charged him with violating the student code of conduct and ordered not to attend class.

The college initially denied that it had taken action against Rotela, but a letter from an Associate Dean showed this claim to be false. Realizing at that point that damage control was required, the college apologized to Rotela and dropped the charges against him.

Greg Lukianoff, president of the invaluable Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), draws out some of the lessons of the Rotela incident. Among them is this:

"The incident provides an opportunity to examine universities’ strange understanding of the limits of their power over issues of conscience. As bad as it is to tell students what they cannot say, it is far worse to tell students what they must say. Nonetheless, Missouri State University, for example, punished a social work student because she was unwilling to sign a letter saying she supported gay adoption. Meanwhile, at Rhode Island College, a conservative social work student was told he would have to lobby the government for progressive causes in which he did not believe if he wished to graduate.

“Academic freedom” can be a difficult concept to define. Among various theories, the academic freedom of professors is often emphasized, while the academic freedom of institutions is misunderstood, the academic freedom of departments is forgotten, and the academic freedom of students is ignored. While a student’s right to academic freedom may be comparatively humble, it at minimum should include the right to principled dissent and the right not to be required to publicly reject your beliefs. Let’s hope FAU’s very public embarrassment on this issue leads to some desperately needed recognition of its students’ academic freedom."

At Power Line, we have tended to focus on abuses at Dartmouth and other leading colleges. This tendency is natural because three of us attended Dartmouth and two of us have sent children there. Moreover, institutions further down the “chain of being” can easily fly under the radar screen, at least until something as egregious as the Rotela incident is exposed.

But I sense that the crude presentation and enforcement of left-wing orthodoxy is a bigger problem at schools like Florida Atlantic University than at schools like Dartmouth College. At Dartmouth, my daughter rarely witnessed professors openly express raw political opinions in the classroom (admittedly, she tried to avoid professors who had a reputation for such expression).

Moreover, to the extent that professors expressed their views, dissent was an option. For example, my daughter’s harsh critique in an Earth Science course of Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth,” was very well received even though the professor agreed with Gore’s views.

By contrast, I hear reports from further down the chain that raw expression of left-wing political views is quite common in the classroom. According to these reports, dissent is non-existent.

It stands to reason, I think, that the problem of enforced orthodoxy is more pronounced at non-elite institutions. Top professors are more likely to possess intellectual security and intellectual curiousity. Thus, they are unlikely to feel threatened by dissenting students. Some may even relish being challenged.

Similarly, top students are less likely to be intimidated by orthodoxy. Certainly, Dartmouth’s conservative students never have been.

Then too, I sense that certain departments at lesser institutions try to mimic those at more prestigious ones, but in doing so lose much of the nuance and playfulness of their “betters.” I noticed this some years ago when I compared course descriptions of certain of Duke University’s literature courses (as I understand it, Duke’s faculty helped pioneer the “deconstruction” of literary texts) with those of what I would call a Duke-wannabe program.

The wannabe program’s offerings read like a parody of Duke’s. From what I could tell, the professors knew the jokes but didn’t seem to get them.

By definition, the vast majority of the nation’s college students don’t attend elite institutions. This makes the crudeness with which left-wing orthodoxy is presented and enforced at non-elite institutions all the more alarming.


Public School Bans Cub Scout Pack

A federal civil rights complaint has been filed against the Salt Lake City School Board after a principal booted a Cub Scout pack from an elementary school.

About thirty 8 to 11 year-olds were told they could no longer meet at Mountain View Elementary School because the Boy Scout’s ban on gay members in leaders conflicted with the school district’s anti-bias policy.

The ban drew the ire of Michael Clara, a school board member and lifetime Boy Scout. Clara filed the federal complaint on behalf of two Latino parents.

“I believe it is an assault on the founding principles of our country for school officials to attempt to exclude a voice no less legitimate than its own from public school participation,” Clara told Fox News. “A marketplace of ideas devoid of competitive viewpoints engenders an insidious society of conformity, contrary to the fundamental precepts of our Constitution.”

He claims the school district is violating the Boy Scout Act – a law that requires schools to allow access to the Boy Scouts if they allow access to outside groups.

“It’s unfortunate this principal has the backing of the district to implement their own form of discrimination and racism,” Clara told Fox News. “They are using the resources of the school system to punish students who don’t agree with us.

The scout troop is made up of mostly Latino boys, he said – and the parents who complained are Catholics.

A district spokesperson told local media they had not seen a copy of the complaint.

On March 16 two Latino parents contacted Clara after the principal informed them the Cub Scout pack would no longer be allowed to meet at the school.  Three days later the school board member received a telephone call from the principal confirming that directive.

“(He) confirmed that the Cub Scouts were prohibited from meeting in the building because they will not allow gay scout leaders,” he said.

Clara, who describes himself as a Christian conservative Republican who supports gay rights, said he was very concerned by the ban.

“Why on Earth would we want to remove something positive from the school,” he asked. “Where does this end? It’s a form of discrimination in the name of intolerance.”

The Cub Scouts had been meeting at the school for three years – but since their eviction – meetings have ceased.


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