Thursday, September 22, 2005

Education sucks

If schools do make a difference, can they be social levelers? Not as much as we might like. If some children went to school and some did not, getting more children into school would improve their education. But with everyone in school, might more spending on education, distributed equitably, reduce social inequalities in performance on measures of educational "output" such as literacy? Regrettably not.* There is reason to believe that for a given amount of extra educational input, across the board to children of all social backgrounds, social inequalities in the outcome may increase. A moment's reflection reveals this not to be quite as surprising as first it seems. Suppose you have a new way of teaching history and teach it to everyone right across the school system. Who will benefit most? Those most ready to take advantage of a new way of learning: the middle-class kids. Spend a bit more on education and spread it equally, and you may well increase inequalities in educational performance.
--Michael Marmot. "The Status Syndrome," 223-4.

I think this may actually be one retort to complaints about poor districts where lots of money is spent and you get very little educational output, like DC. That is, yeah you spend money, but look what you are working. More broadly, it emphasizes how important are policies aimed at younger and younger kids.

*Mortimore, P., and G. Whitty. 1997. Can School Improvement Overcome the Effects of Disadvantage? London: Institute of Education.

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