A video series about our nation's worst-performing schools caught our interest this week, along with a study that tries to determine whether money really is the biggest barrier to college attendance.

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Education Lab’s staff spends a lot of time reading about schools and learning as well as writing and talking about those subjects.  So we’re trying out a new (for us) feature, to share stories, photos and videos that we find most compelling each week.  This week’s offerings come from reporters Paige Cornwell and Katherine Long.

Education in the Delta

Mississippi is the poorest state in the United States, and its students have the lowest test scores and graduation rates. Most of the state’s worst-performing schools have nearly all-black student bodies, and most are in the Mississippi Delta. A video series called “Education in the Delta” by journalist Emrys Eller looks at the long history of racism and segregation in Delta schools and profiles some of the students and teachers who hope to succeed despite their schools’ severe lack of resources.

The circumstances are extreme, but viewers will see parallels between the Delta schools and schools here. As one educator in the series says of the Delta, “This place is just a mirror for what else is happening across the nation.”

— Paige Cornwell

Is money really the biggest issue in deciding whether kids go to college?

A new paper looks at the impact that money – or to be more precise, a sudden windfall of it – has on a student’s likelihood of attending college.  The news site Vox has a story about it and notes that it’s a pretty clever study; the researchers looked at families who won lotteries to see if extra cash in a family’s bank account would make it more likely that their kids would go to college. The result – unless the family wins a lot of money, it doesn’t seem to have much of an effect. The takeaway: Perhaps financial obstacles aren’t the major reason why some students don’t go to college.

— Katherine Long