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  • AN INTERESTING STUDY

    Filed at 7:22 am under by dcobranchi

    Education Next has a published study that purports to show that the achievement gap between black kids and white pre-schoolers can be entirely explained by the home environment. In other words, entering kindergartners of similar socioeconomic background scored identically on performance tests. By the end of kindergarten, however, blacks had fallen behind and never caught up.

    Of particular interest was this statement:

    The number of books in the household is a useful proxy for the home environment’s contribution to academic success. Adjusting the test-score data for this factor reduces the gap even more. On average, black students in the sample had 39 children’s books in their home, compared with an average of 93 books among white students. Taking this difference into account cuts the black-white test-score gap to less than a fourth of a standard deviation in math and completely eliminates the gap in reading. The gap between white and Hispanic students also shrinks.

    I don’t know how far to push the analogy, but it could help explain the homeschooling advantage (and private schooling for that matter). It’s not the number of books. Heck, if that were the case my kids would all be geniuses. The authors treat the number of books as a proxy for socioeconomic status. But, I think it could equally be argued that they are a proxy for the importance that the parents place on education. Parents who send their kids to private school are choosing the high-priced spread. They choose to spend their money on education. Home educators make an even bigger commitment to education. A lot of us basically take a vow of poverty in order to homeschool.

    The full report is relatively short. Have a read and then let’s discuss.

    13 Responses to “AN INTERESTING STUDY”


    Comment by
    Chris
    September 18th, 2004
    at 9:21 am

    One thing they tap danced around but were unwilling to actually name is culture. Black inner city culture can have a decidedly anti-achievement mentality to it. “Acting white” is a derogatory term for kids that try to excel academically. As the kids get older it stands to reason they can be influenced to a greater extent by neighborhood culture.

    However, I think your book point is right on. Books are a proxy for parent’s commitment to education. You can be dirt poor but still check out 40 books a week from the library. It’s not about money.


    Comment by
    Roy W. Wright
    September 18th, 2004
    at 12:32 pm

    93 children’s books?! Is that really normal?


    Comment by
    CED
    September 18th, 2004
    at 4:12 pm

    Would anyone dare to make the causal leap from attitudes about education and hard work to social economic status?

    Or as the teachers tell potential drop outs, “If you want a good job you need to be educated.” But I don’t suppose it’s politically correct to even suggest that many people on the bottom economic rung are there because they don’t value education to begin with.

    But sadly, the conclusion is not that people who value hard work and education work work their way into more money, but that more money (given to the school districts) is what makes the children better educated.


    Comment by
    Eric Holcombe
    September 18th, 2004
    at 11:55 pm

    Heck Roy, I’ll bet we’ve got 30-40 crammed in all the seatback pockets of the Suburban (and under the seats, and…)


    Comment by
    Roy W. Wright
    September 18th, 2004
    at 11:56 pm

    Wow, I don’t think I even own 93 for myself.


    Comment by
    Chris
    September 19th, 2004
    at 5:02 pm

    We have at least 1000 kids books in the house – maybe 1500+. We can surpass 93 with just the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew series!


    Comment by
    Roy W. Wright
    September 19th, 2004
    at 5:28 pm

    Wow. Well, no offense (and not to go further off on this little tangent), but I definitely don’t plan on going that route.


    Comment by
    Sam
    September 19th, 2004
    at 11:37 pm

    I couldn’t believe the 93 – I (just me, not anyone else in my family) have over 500 PSB, and many more childrens and adults books, along with library memberships for 6 libraries.
    Books help, because it sends a message that reading is valued in the family. But ultimately it is up to the parents to instil a love of learning into their child(ren).


    Comment by
    Roy W. Wright
    September 20th, 2004
    at 2:18 am

    It’s just that the vast majority of children’s books strike me as silly drivel, and I’d prefer my children to read something a little more meaningful. As C.S. Lewis said, a book that isn’t worth reading at age 50 isn’t worth reading at age 5.

    Maybe I haven’t seen enough children’s books yet.


    Comment by
    meep
    September 20th, 2004
    at 5:56 am

    Yeah, I’ve got at least 50 kids’ books around… somewhere… and my baby can only say “Mama” and “Dada” at this point. It doesn’t hurt that almost all of these books were mine as a kid. And then, I’ve got >1000 books of my own, the majority of which are non-fiction (lots of math and physics… my college majors). I need to get all of Dickens in Hardcover, though. I don’t have Barnaby Rudge and Nicholas Nickleby, which annoys the heck out of me.

    In any case, we didn’t own a lot of books when I was really young – but we went to the library every week. Even as a teenager, I would hang out there for about 3 hours every Sunday, trying to figure out which 7 books I was going to get. When I finally had money of my own, I spent it on books (and when other women are buying new shoes or clothes, I’m buying books).

    Man, it’s an addiction.


    Comment by
    Chris
    September 20th, 2004
    at 8:08 am

    Roy,

    I’m defining “kids book” as any book my kids read. Very few of them have more pictures than words!


    Comment by
    Tim Haas
    September 20th, 2004
    at 9:00 am

    Roy:

    We’re in a new golden age of children’s literature — there are literally hundreds of books at every “age level” (for want of a better phrase) worth reading for parent and child alike.

    And don’t discount the pictures: two of the books I was fondest of as a child (“The Little House” by Virginia Lee Burton, about a house in the country overrun by encroaching urbanization that is finally moved to new country and loved again; and “The Whispering Rabbit and Other Stories” by Margaret Wise Brown, which had antic drawings of animals in old-fashioned cars and storm-tossed ships) I read over and over because the art not only illustrated the words on the page but also encouraged hours of close examination and comparison.


    Comment by
    Eric Holcombe
    September 20th, 2004
    at 11:39 pm

    Roy, we do have the Narnia Chronicles…. ;o)