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Plan aims to determine students' socioeconomic status

Ohanian Comment;
The Feds have decided it isn't enough to ask kids taking the NAEP if their family has a dishwasher. They need more information. Added information--home size, backyards, rates of single parenthood and unemployment, times family moved--will provide a fuller picture of kids' lives. One category is

  • cultural possessions (classic literature, books of poetry, classic art)

  • This is a very odd definition of "culture."

    People who worry about privacy issues worry that all that data will be on a person's permanent record.

    Permanent. As in forever.

    I'm guessing this is the paper referred to:
    Improving the Measurement of Socioeconomic Status for the National Assessment of Educational Progress: A Theoretical Foundation

    I find it fascinating that the Feds want to further detail the conditions of poverty--instead of doing something about poverty, such as raising the minimum wage, providing housing support, and so on.

    One of the paper's authors has this title: Assistant Chief for Social Characteristics
    Social, Economic, and Housing Statistics Division,U. S. Censor Bureau.

    A New York City mother of triplets and very concerned about privacy issues, says she has trained her kids to "lie about everything."

    by Greg Toppo

    Looking for a clearer picture of how poor, middle-class and wealthy students perform in U.S. schools, the Obama administration wants to redefine how it calculates children's socioeconomic status.

    In a new white paper, just released, the U.S. Department of Education proposes classifying students by more than just their parents' income or education levels. It explains the federal government should be able to tie test scores to a host of indicators, including: whether parents own or rent their home, how many times a family has moved in the past year and whether anyone in their household gets medical assistance.

    The plan, drafted by the National Center on Education Statistics (NCES), also wants to use U.S. Census data on neighborhoods, looking at home size, backyards, rates of single parenthood and unemployment -- in search of a fuller picture of kids' lives.

    The change in student classification, at least for now, would affect only how results are reported on a key series of national skills tests known as the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). But it could have a big impact on education debates, potentially increasing the number of students designated as "low income" and reframing the debate on poverty's effects in America.

    "It would allow us to understand a lot better which students are doing well and which students aren't doing so well," said Sean Reardon of the Stanford Graduate School of Education. "It would allow us to target resources better."

    Where given students fall on a socioeconomic scale is "a statistical question, but it's an important statistical question that does end up driving policy," said Tom Loveless, an education researcher at the Brookings Institution.

    Right now, the NCES relies on just a few key measures to determine a student's socioeconomic status: It gives kids a simple anonymous survey, and it checks school records to see whether they're enrolled in federal free-lunch programs. The center also checks a school's federal Title I status to find out how many poor children the school educates.

    But the new NCES proposal says the survey isn't enough, even when tied to a school's overall poverty level. Increasingly, it's also irrelevant whether kids receive federally funded free or reduced-price meals at school -- a key indicator of poverty -- because many schools now automatically enroll everyone. And the federal program only measures parents' income, not education levels or job status.

    Loveless called free-lunch statistics "a crude indicator" of poverty, especially in a down economy. "If you had a sudden income shock, it wouldn't be reflected for a while" in the current system.

    More than 31 million kids are enrolled in the federal school lunch program, according to USDA. The threshold for children in a family of four is an income of $29,965.

    The free-lunch program is also fraught for many kids, especially high schoolers, who are ashamed to admit they're poor, NCES noted. It's especially problematic among immigrant students. Perhaps a result, about one in five students who qualifies doesn't apply.

    "We're probably underestimating poverty in the upper grades," said Amy Wilkins, senior fellow for social justice at The College Board. The proposed changes, she said, could expand estimates of the number of poor students in high school.

    The 13-question survey that eighth-grade students customarily fill out during NAEP tests asks how much school their parents completed. It can also include questions such as: "Does your family get a newspaper at least four times a week?" and "About how many books are there in your home?" For fourth-graders, it has asked whether they have Internet access, a dishwasher or a "clothes dryer just for your family."

    In general, Wilkins said, children's self-reported data on their parents' education and income are "notoriously unreliable." A more robust data set, she said, would be "a very good thing."

    — Greg Toppo
    USA Today





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