Tuesday, June 04, 2013

They said what?!?

So my daughter's 8th grade class went to the high school they will be attending in the fall for "Field Day". "Field Day" is supposed to serve two purposes: help familiarize 8th graders with the high school and allow kids from both feeder middle schools to meet each other in an informal setting.  I suspect that there is a third motive--to allow the athletic coaches to size up the kids for talent and recruit them to try out for sports teams.

It did not go well.

My kid was assigned to golf, lacrosse and track & field.  Golf and lacrosse, and the 180 degree ocean views should be a tip off that this is not your typical California neighborhood public school.

I asked her how it went.  Did she meet anyone interesting?  Did she like any of the sports?

She said that the kids from the other school spent all day talking about how the kids at her school are so "ghetto".

"OMG, did they really say that?", I asked.

"Over and over, although one girl said that wasn't entirely true because 'some of them are white'."

I talked to one of the school staff that chaperoned the event to ask if she heard anything similar.  She replied that she heard even worse.

Kids from the other school came up to kids from our school and said, "We have iPads and you don't."

The chaperone mentioned another thing.  The kids from our school also observed that the other school must not have a dress code; the skimpy attire on some students from the wealthier school would get a student sent home at their school.

Readers from outside the US may not be aware that poorer kids are held to different standards than rich kids.  Poor kids are more likely to live under strict rules of conduct at school such as dress and speech codes.  Kids at the wealthier middle school in our district are entrusted with school lockers while kids at the poorer middle school are not allowed to have them for fear that they might keep contraband articles in them.  (iPads, perhaps?)

If you go by average test scores, the wealthier school would appear to be a superior choice.  But, if you stratify by parental educational attainment--a proxy for class--you can see that their is no statistically significant difference in test scores for children of people with graduate educations.  However, test scores don't tell you about other things kids learn from school.


Yes, our school is a Title I school; roughly one third of the students are considered "at risk", mainly due to poverty.  It is also on Program Improvement status because the English-learner students only improved their standardized test scores by an average of 8 points, missing the state goal of 10 points.  They scored well above the state-wide average, but "failed" to improve "enough" to satisfy the state goal for them.  (I'll let you decide whether multiple choice tests can adequately assess learning and improvement.)

If there were 10 or fewer students in a category, the sample size is considered too small to be significant.  However, the entirely predictably erratic performance of 17 students was considered a statistically robust enough result to brand the school a failure and put it in PI status.

Anyone familiar with analysis of variance (ANOVA) aka "the statistics of small numbers" knows nothing magical happens between sample sizes of 10 and 11.  A smaller sample will almost always show more variance than a larger sample.

I think our elected lawmakers should be given standardized tests to assess their critical thinking skills.  Their scores should be posted on the internet and also on the ballots.


  1. It's funny how the richer people don't seem to notice the inequities.

  2. Interesting - only couple days ago me and DH discussed (after another magnificent stupidity coming from one of the congressmen) that people in power should be required to pass SAT or similar scores before they take the office.
    But with regard to this "ghetto" thing: very recently I've heard that same word from my DD's (6th grade) friend, but in a somewhat different content. They were actually upset why some of these kids smoke and misbehave. I don't think this is racist, since they have couple african american BFFs in their group, but I see how it can grow into something more serious later.

  3. oof. the kids so often parrot comments heard from their parents. i wonder how much of that is going on? but hopefully, the populations will blend enough in high school to alleviate some of this. class (reinforced through gifted/honors/regular tracking in courses) was the main issue and the spread of incomes was huge. makes me want to go interview a random sample of my classmates now...decades after graduation.

  4. Ah, I went to the "ghetto" schools growing up. I remember hearing those sorts of obnoxious things from the students (and sometimes the parents) at wealthier schools. As an adult looking back, though, I think that the "extra" education about race, class, and inequalities that I got via my classmates was one of the best things about my school experience.

    I love your idea of a standardized test for prospective lawmakers!

  5. Welcome to the club. Going from our former school district to our current school district has been a similar experience.

    The good of it is that I think my son is more grounded, social, and accepting for having been in a more economically diverse school. Improvements in our new school have a lot to do with typical parental, peer (this one is huge for my son), and teacher expectations with drawbacks as you've noted.

  6. When it came time to enroll our elder child in elementary school, the school district closed the school in our neighborhood, a magnet school, but it was 2 blocks from our house instead of across the busy 4 lane street. However, we decided that our children should attend that school even tho it meant our taking them school every day because of traffic.

    Our peer group (over educated engineers & scientists from the 2 national labs) from the eldest kid's daycare, however, was really upset about the magnet school closing and that their kids would have to go to the local school. One even went so far to say that the only reason that you would want to send your kid to Jackson was so that she could learn Spanish.

    Racism is not dead, and parents are passing it on to their children.

  7. This upsets me, in part because my kids go to a "rich" school and I worry that they will turn into entitled brats! I didn't grow up in an area like this, so while I appreciate the good schools, fantastic library, and lovely parks, I have mixed feelings about raising my kids in an area where the "poor" kids are middle class. I've never heard any parent or child say things like you've reported, but that doesn't mean they aren't being said or that my kids won't hear them.


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