More on poverty and school results

January 30th, 2014 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Amanda Ripley at Talking Points Memo writes:

There is just one valid way to compare how students from different socio-economic backgrounds do on this same international test. And that’s to look at the scores for kids at different income levels, data the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) routinely collects. What we see from the data is that our poorest kids perform worse than their peers in other countries—and so do our richest kids. Even our middle-class kids score worse than middle-class kids in Germany, Finland, New Zealand and Korea, among other places. Our kids do better in reading than in math or science—but they don’t tend to score at the very top of the world in any subject.

Countries with significant levels of child now outperform the U.S. on international tests (Canada, Estonia, Poland and Vietnam, for example). So the urgent question is not whether we must fix before we fix schools (or fix schools before we fix ). The question is, What did these other countries do to help mitigate against the toxic effects of ? And what can we learn from them?

Poverty is a factor, but as the US results show it is not a determining one.

To me, the value of the international educational comparisons is not to prove who is right or wrong; it is to see what is possible, to find the outliers and try to learn from them. Poland, which has a 16 percent child-poverty rate and spends dramatically less than we do per pupil, had worse PISA scores than we did in 2000. Today, Polish 15-year-olds outscore their American peers in math, reading and science. Poland has more teenagers performing at an advanced level in math than Finland (which has a mere 4 percent child poverty rate). Meanwhile, other countries have very low levels of child poverty but end up with worse outcomes than Poland (Norway and Sweden come to mind).

Fascinating.

The Huffington Post also reports:

The data was provided to The WorldPost by Pablo Zoido, an analyst at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, the group behind PISA. It shows that students’ wealth does not necessarily make them more competitive on an international scale. In the United States, for example, the poorest kids scored around a 433 out of 700 on the math portion of PISA, while the wealthiest ones netted about a 547. The lower score comes in just below the OECD average for the bottom decile (436), but the higher score also comes in below the OECD average for the top decile (554).

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14 Responses to “More on poverty and school results”

  1. Anthony (768 comments) says:

    Don’t tell me it has something to do with the quality of the teaching – shock, horror?

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  2. Tom Jackson (2,553 comments) says:

    The answer is that Americans are stupider than other people. I know we aren’t supposed to say that, but it’s true nonetheless.

    The average American is a gun toting, religious ignoramus.

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  3. itstricky (2,021 comments) says:

    The average American is a gun toting, religious ignoramus.

    Do you have a Facebook page where-upon I can make death threats against you?

    Actually, clearly I am just a sensitive soul who has taken offence at your, correct, and brutal summary of my being. I am in humble gratitude to you for pointing out such an obvious and entirely correct summary of my heritage. I’m not angry at all. In fact I am truely truely sorry that I’ve taken offence – I shouldn’t be so sensitive; it’s all my fault for “taking offence” because, you know, I’m the one who’s done wrong. Please continue to berate me. I won’t get upset. I won’t feel like punching you in the face.

    Arrrr Darn! Sorry – wrong thread.

    (c) 2014 Sarcasm – The lowest form of humor ™

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  4. ross69 (3,652 comments) says:

    Why not use a NZ context?

    Income and wealth can affect education outcomes in a number of ways. Income has a direct impact on the affordability and accessibility of those education services which charge fees or if transport and other costs are significant.

    Higher income and wealth provides access to a wider range of life experiences and to resources that can support learning.

    Poverty increases the likelihood of poor nutrition and other health problems, housing transience, unstable parent and caregiver relationships, negative peer group influences and other factors known to impact on educational achievement.

    Poverty during the early years of childhood can be particularly detrimental, with negative educational effects persisting at least into the middle years of schooling, even when family incomes improve. The relationship between income and education outcomes is not linear – increases in household income have significantly greater impacts on education outcomes for children in low-income families than outcomes for children in high-income families…Parental income is one of a cluster of proxy indicators for family processes that influence a student’s achievement at school.

    http://www.educationcounts.govt.nz/__data/assets/pdf_file/0017/6443/Children-in-low-income-fam.pdf

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  5. ross69 (3,652 comments) says:

    Or how about:

    there is good evidence that family income matters, in the sense that it impacts on the educational achievement levels of children and their subsequent adult outcomes. The available empirical evidence also suggests that family income during early childhood is particularly significant in relation to completed schooling, adult earnings and hours worked. Further, there are a number of different pathways through which economic disadvantages are translated into poorer educational outcomes. The cumulative impact of these pathways is significant in terms of lower educational performance and lost human potential. For the children concerned, the consequences can be very damaging, if not tragic. For society as a whole, the outcomes include higher fiscal costs (due to a greater larger number of beneficiaries and higher health care costs) and a lower rate of productivity growth. In other words, we are all worse off.
    ….
    New Zealand has substantial rates of child poverty and material deprivation. These rates significantly exceed those of many other developed countries and, at least on some measures, are much worse than three decades ago. The evidence suggests that child poverty, especially when experienced in early childhood and/or when persistent and severe, can be very damaging – both to the children directly affected and society as a whole. Amongst other things, child poverty contributes to the large educational achievement gaps between children from lower and higher SES backgrounds. For such reasons, there is a powerful case for reducing child poverty.

    http://igps.victoria.ac.nz/staff/team/Education%20and%20child%20poverty%20V4.pdf

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  6. ross69 (3,652 comments) says:

    From the same paper by Jonathan Boston:

    With respect to New Zealand data, a study by Fergusson and Woodward (2000) showed a clear relationship between a family’s SES status at birth and the child’s subsequent educational attainment, both at school and at the tertiary level. For instance, children from families of a professional or managerial status achieved university entrance rates five times higher (57%) than those of children from families of an unskilled or semi-skilled status (11%). Likewise, one can point to the findings of
    the Competent Children Project conducted by the New Zealand Council for Educational Research. This study followed the progress of around 500 children in the Wellington region from about the age of five in the mid-1990s until they left school and has produced a wealth of important findings (see, for instance, Wylie and Hodgen, 2007, 2011). This research showed, for instance, that children whose family income was below $30,000 at age 5 or younger generally scored lower on basic competencies in their first year of schooling compared to their more affluent counterparts (Wylie, 2001). Unsurprisingly, the children from low-income households continued to score lower at age 10 in crucial subjects like mathematics, reading comprehension and writing (ibid., p.28). Interestingly, this weaker academic performance was evident ‘regardless of whether their family income had improved’ between the ages of 5 and 10 (ibid.).

    The importance of family income, especially during the early years of a child’s life, has been underscored by a number of recent New Zealand and American studies. For instance, research based on the Christchurch longitudinal study found that the family income of children between the ages of 1 and 10 had a statistically significant relationship with school completion rates and adult income: children from poorer families had worse outcomes (Gibb et al., 2012). This correlation was evident after adjusting for a range of background control variables including childhood IQ and socio-emotional functioning, as well as other relevant family factors, including maternal age, parental education and family structure. Consistent with this, Duncan et al. (2010) using data from the US Panel Study of Income Dynamics found clear associations between family income and a range of subsequent adult outcomes. To quote from a recent article by Duncan and Magnuson….

    More detailed analyses show that for families with average early childhood incomes below $25,000, a $3,000 annual boost to family income is associated with a 17% increase in adult earnings. Results for work hours are broadly similar to those for earnings … In contrast, increments to early-childhood income for higher-income children were not significantly associated with higher adult earnings or work hours.

    The fact is that the data is out there and it is unequivocal. Of course the National Party will do everything it can to spin this because it knows it has an appalling record when it comes to reducing child poverty. No matter how you spin it, it’s clear that child poverty is likely to be a big – if not the biggest – election issue.

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  7. Kea (13,571 comments) says:

    ross69, Child Poverty is a misused phrase that makes an appeal to emotion in order to distract from its lack of substance. It is also used by those with socialist agendas to shame opposition into silence. [What monster would fight to maintain little children living poverty !]

    It is not – child – poverty. It is just poverty.

    Unless you are suggesting the adults of the family are doing ok and neglecting the kids. In that case the problem is neglect, not poverty. I am saying that the whole family is in poverty. I am growing sick & tired of this – think of he children – crap when the real goal is socialism. If you like socialism then just say so. It is a valid point to advance. Just be honest and let it stand on its merits.

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  8. ross69 (3,652 comments) says:

    It is not – child – poverty. It is just poverty.

    Sure poverty affects adults and kids. But this is a debate about educational achievement and how poverty affects that.

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  9. ross69 (3,652 comments) says:

    If you like socialism then just say so

    I like a system in which everyone has a fair suck of the sav. Is that socialism? I don’t think it matters what you call it.

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  10. igm (1,413 comments) says:

    ross69: Crawl back into your socialist hole . . . you spout left-wing irrelevance at every given opportunity, and frankly, you are nothing but a bludging public service loser! Get a real job, pay real taxes, see them being wasted by the recipients of welfare, then you may awake to the fact that there are scum out there not worth supporting.

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  11. weizguy (95 comments) says:

    “In the United States, for example, the poorest kids scored around a 433 out of 700 on the math portion of PISA, while the wealthiest ones netted about a 547″

    I’m sorry, am I reading this correctly? This seems to demonstrate clearly that poverty is clear predictor of how well students will perform. Why would you attempt to shift the goalposts by looking at how they perform against other countries? Surely comparing results within a country will have the benefit of removing other confounding factors?

    The first article appears to be more of an indictment of the US school system. I can’t see how it supports your claim – it seems to suggest that the US should be doing better than it is because it has less poverty than other countries who perform better. You seem to be stretching the substance of the article to fit your prejudices.

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  12. Psycho Milt (2,423 comments) says:

    Poverty is a factor, but as the US results show it is not a determining one.

    Those results don’t show that at all. They show that poor kids in different education systems get different PISA scores, which may indicate differences in quality of the education systems (or that some countries are gaming the PISA system, or that some countries’ education systems focus on scoring wel in tests etc, but let’s not go there). Which is a great big so-what unless you’re interested in relative performance of education systems internationally.

    What actually shows the strength of poverty as a determining factor is its influence within a single education system. In the NZ system, a handy rubric is “Can the school decile system be used as a proxy for educational performance?” And waddaya know, it can.

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  13. doggone7 (846 comments) says:

    igm: “… scum out there not worth supporting.”

    And exactly what do we do with the ‘scum not worth supporting’ ? And what will the society look like when your solutions have been applied?

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  14. igm (1,413 comments) says:

    doggone: Time these leeches got off their backsides and took responsibility for themselves. It is not taxpayers’ place to house, feed, supply booze, drugs, takeaways etc. to these scum. Just look at any pub, takeaway, pokie den on benefit day, they are full of fit and able bodied people who should be working, not spending my taxes on crap.

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