Opportunity gaps. Free college campaign. UW's new leader. Angst about reshuffling in Seattle schools.

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DO SCHOOLS WIDEN ACHIEVEMENT GAPS?

We usually think a good education is the best route to a better life, especially for kids from poor families.  But two new studies suggest schools may add to the gaps between how much poor and rich children achieve, at least in math.

One study looked at students across the world, comparing how much rigorous math their schools offer, then seeing if that varied by family income.  The result: the poorer the kid, the less math they’ve had the opportunity to learn.

“Schools are built on the notion of everyone being able to work their way up; the ‘American Dream,'” said William Schmidt, the lead author, in a report in  Education Week.  “What this says is in effect schools are working against that; it’s adding to the social-class gap.”

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This isn’t to say that schools alone cause the inequity — poverty and other social forces clearly play a big role.  Rather, the authors say, the results show that education inequality is a more complex story than we may think.

The other study looked at U.S. eighth-graders, and found, for black boys in particular, math performance  dropped significantly in schools where 60 percent of students are black.

In the same Education Week report, one of the researchers said it’s not clear why that’s the case – but it raises questions about segregated schools or classrooms, which exist in many places, including Seattle.

COLLEGE ON THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL

When it comes to Democrats, The Atlantic says, debt-free college might be as big an issue in this presidential election as affordable health care was last time around.  In this week’s debate for Democratic hopefuls, the candidates didn’t say anything about K-12 schooling, but some did mention their plans for lowering the cost of higher education.  And that’s just the kind of big, bold populist idea that Democrats need, some argue.

The issue wasn’t just picked out of the air, according to The Atlantic.  In a survey and, later, a poll, the Progressive Change Campaign Committee asked people to vote on their top ideas for big policy changes, and debt-free college was the winner.

TOP LOCAL STORIES

  • The University of Washington has a new leader, and if you saw the photo of her fist-pump after the announcement, you know she is no ordinary college president.  Genuine, supporters say.  Widely respected.  The first woman to be the UW’s permanent president.  Also the first Latina and first home-grown leader in a long time.  One of her first promises?  To work to increase faculty salaries.
  • Seattle school officials plan to move about two dozen teachers to different schools nearly a month after school started.  Parents have rallied, signed petitions and disrupted school board meetings to try to get the transfers stopped, but so far, no go.  District officials say it’s about the money they’ve lost from lower-than-expected enrollment, although it’s not clear how much money can be saved since they can’t lay off anyone – the teachers  have yearlong contracts signed last spring. The whole episode made one dad so mad, he donated $70,000 to a school his children don’t even attend.
  • More reasons not to push your kid into kindergarten early.

DON’T MISS

  •  Who is gifted? What does that mean? How many kids should be served?  And how?  A report in nprEd asks all those questions, and gets a variety of answers.
  •  Why did Intel withdraw from nation’s premier science competition?
  •  If you’re a parent in Arizona, you can’t decide your kids shouldn’t take state standardized tests, according to Arizona’s attorney general. Bet that’s not the end of that.

COMING UP:

Oct. 19 – Lisa Miller, author of “The Spiritual Child,” talks at Temple De Hirsch Sinai, Seattle.  Presented by Parent Map. $25

Oct. 22 –Rainier Beach High students plan to hold a town hall meeting on school transportation.  6-8 p.m., Rainier Beach High

Oct. 27 – Showing of “The Cartel,” a film that explores the finances of public schools.  Discussion follows the film. Sponsored by the Master’s in Education Policy program at the University of Washington. 6-8 p.m., Smith Hall 120.

 

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