Monday, October 18, 2010

Economic integration of schools

My child attends a Title 1 school, which means 40% or more of the students come from low-income homes.  I didn't know what Title 1 meant until recently, when I saw the sign at her school and looked it up.  Here's what Title 1 means in California.

What does low-income mean? defines low-income as families with incomes less than half of their local metropolitan census tract, which means that 40% of the kids at her school come from families with incomes in the low $30,000 or less.  Some quick arithmetic with sales prices of the new townhomes in our neighborhood and I deduce that there is a full order of magnitude range of household incomes at this school!

Some affluent parents in our neighborhood used to apply for permits to neighboring middle schools (MS) in more uniformly affluent areas.  In recent years, we've seen a big change in parent willingness to send their kids to our neighborhood middle school.

It's a beautiful campus, recently remodeled with a combination of  local bond and Title 1 money and donations.  The teachers I met at back to school night have impressive credentials, enthusiasm and energy.

I read with great interest, Study of Montgomery County schools shows benefits of economic integration.
Low-income students in Montgomery County performed better when they attended affluent elementary schools instead of ones with higher concentrations of poverty, according to a new study that suggests economic integration is a powerful but neglected school-reform tool.
Our neighborhood MS has lower average standardized test scores, but produces an outsize share of our city's HS valedictorians.  Bad dad and I wonder if economic integration helps both the poor and affluent children.

We are rather cynical about standardized test scores, but perusal of the STAR test results for 2010 is educational.  Kids that are on the fast track don't train for the tests, but kids on the slow track (at least in elementary years) spend more time being coached for the exams; it is not a valid comparison.  For this reason the scores don't tell you as much as the type of classes the kids are taking. 

Take a look at the scores for the economically disadvantaged kids.  The school has an honors track and the population in them is biased towards kids from middle and upper income homes. 

Kids on the fast math track take pre-algebra in 6th grade and algebra1 in the 7th grade.  Notice the number of low-income kids at my child's school that take math classes that put them on track to take Calculus in 11th grade.  It's not as high a percentage as for the kids from more affluent families, but it is still pretty impressive.

I have some other thoughts about standardized testing.  Stay tuned.


  1. I love reading about this sort of thing. My son goes to a title 1 school, while some of his friends open enrolled at schools without the economic integration and with the higher test scores. But you know what? Due to the title 1 status, we have a better student teacher ratio. Not to mention the benefits that you can't really measure.

  2. I enjoy reading your thoughts on public education in California, since you are several years ahead of us.

    I was home early today, because the baby had her one year well-baby check up. I took her out for a walk after we got home, and happened to be near our closest school as the parents were arriving to pick up their kids. It is a public magnet Spanish language immersion school. I asked a couple of parents how they like it. They love it- but told me that there are 3 applicants for every spot. I've always assumed that if we don't go to that school, we'll go to our "regular" neighborhood school (which is much farther away). But they also told me about a bilingual program at an elementary school not too out of the way for us, so now I don't know.... I guess all I really know is that I want to stay in the public schools.


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