School Talk

Turns out Wealth (or Lack Thereof) Doesn’t Always Predict Student Learning. Imagine That.


It turns out that contrary to popular belief, the wealth of a district doesn’t always predict student learning and the New York Times has created an interactive tool that allows us to take a look city by city. (They studied the 2,000 largest cities in the country.) Each of the gray dots below represents a different city and while I have only posted screen shots, when you visit the New York Times link, you can clink on any one of these dots and up pops the name of the district as well as how the typical third (or 8th grader) fares in terms of being above or below grade level expectations.

The data, based on some 300 million elementary-school test scores across more than 11,000 school districts, tweaks conventional wisdom in many ways. Some urban and Southern districts are doing better than data typically suggests. Some wealthy ones don’t look that effective. Many poor school systems do.

This picture, and Chicago’s place in it, defy how we typically think about wealth and education in America. It’s true that children in prosperous districts tend to test well, while children in poorer districts on average score lower. But in this analysis, which measures how scores grow as student cohorts move through school, the Stanford researcher Sean Reardon argues that it’s possible to separate some of the advantages of socioeconomics from what’s actually happening in schools.


To read the full piece and use its interactive features, click here.


What do you think?

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