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As Unemployment Rises, Kids' Future Dims

Susan Notes:

"Schools in areas with large concentrations of displaced workersâ€Â¦may face particular challenges in maintaining achievement standards during times of economic hardship."

Those are the facts: Children are vulnerable to family economics. But meanwhile, back in corporate-politico land, our US Department of Ed CEO ad his cronies, aided and abetted by our professional organizations, are figuring out how to

  • raise the bar

  • raise standards

  • develop new assessments

  • whistle Dixie

  • It's called business as usual. The puppetmasters at at the US Department of Education know how to keep the professional organizations and pseudo-dissident organizations in line: Offer great potential for consulting gigs. If this sounds cynical, so be it. Sadly, the behavior of my professional organization, which meant so much to me as a young teacher, invites cynicism. The behavior of neoliberal education outfits invites cynicism. The behavior of neoprogressives invites cynicism.

    It is way past time to put the needs of children front and center. Feed them. Fix their teeth. Guarantee their housing. Make a Happiness Index in schools top priority. Start with the musical staircase.

    By Kelly Evans

    Forget frugality. Want to know what the true lasting impact of this Great Recession will be? Then take a look at the kids.

    A parent's job loss increases the probability that a child repeats a grade in school by roughly 15%, according to a new paper from two economics professors at the University of California, Davis.

    "If we view grade repetition as a signal of academic difficulties, these short-run effects may be consistent with findings of longer-term negative outcomes in education and earnings," write Ann Huff Stevens and Jessamyn Schaller. The effects are particularly large for families in which the parents have only a high school education or less, their study finds.

    "This is in contrast to earlier work that has found only limited evidence of short-run effects of displacement on children's academic outcomes," they write. Their study may also explain why areas of the country prone to cyclical layoffs, such as those with a large factory base, have trouble improving their school systems.

    The authors find that household earnings are reduced by about 15% in the year after a parent̢۪s job loss, based on their analysis of data from the Survey of Income and Program Participation in 1996, 2001, and 2004, a program maintained by the Census Bureau.

    In turn, while just over 7% of children without a parental layoff repeated grades by the third SIPP study, more than 9% of children who had a parent laid off repeated grades â€" resulting in about a 15% greater chance that children who experience a parent's job loss will repeat a grade. The effect is twice as likely in boys than in girls, they find.

    The findings come as the nation's unemployment rate hit 10.2% in October â€"the first time it has crossed double-digits since 1982. A broader gauge of unemployment, including those who are working part-time for lack of full-time work, is at 17.5%. According to the Labor Department, about 15.7 million Americans are currently unemployed.

    "More attention should be paid to the potential role of external factors in affecting school level outcomes," they conclude. "Schools in areas with large concentrations of displaced workersâ€Â¦may face particular challenges in maintaining achievement standards during times of economic hardship."

    — Kelly Evans
    Wall Street Journal blog


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