Charter Schools

I noticed an article by Megan McArdle, We Libertarians Were Really Wrong About School Vouchers . She says “it was reasonable to think,in 1997, that voucher programs could change the world. ”

No, it wasn’t. You had to be a complete fool to think that, operating on a substantially incorrect model of what makes people tick.

I never expected charter schools to have any significant effect. And they don’t.

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93 Responses to Charter Schools

  1. Jerome says:

    Huh. Care to show a little of your work?

    • gcochran9 says:

      The key result of the Coleman Report was that almost none of the variance in how kids did in school was explained by differences in funding. “schools bring little influence to bear on a child’s achievement that is independent of his background and general social context.”

      The same is true for college: how well you do on the GRE depends almost entirely on your SAT score coming in to college, not the particular college attended. “Good schools” are, almost entirely, schools that only admit high-achieving students.

      But I claim this was all obvious beforehand. When I took geometry in high school, my teacher told me he was sure I’d do well at the very beginning of the year. I asked why he thought that: he said “Because I taught your mother.”

      What was the most special thing about the Lutheran Gymnasium in Budapest? John von Neumann attended it.

      • caethan says:

        Giving black kids schools with roofs and books probably made a difference.

        • AppSocRes says:

          Extensive experience in a large number of school systems scattered across the country has amply demonstrated that giving Negro kids expensive high schools with the latest in laboratories, computer labs, video aids, libraries, teaching accessories, fancy sports facilities, and whatever else administrators can come up with has made little if any difference. If the school is largely Negro the educational outcomes for coillege prep type outcomes are bleak.

          I am willing to believe that if the 85% of Negro kids in these schools with below average IQs were given training in trades appropriate to their intellectual capacities and were subject to a level of enforced discipline that curbed their tendencies towards disruptive and violent behavior then the results might be better. But that experiment has never been tried. And I doubt it ever will be.

          • gcochran9 says:

            The space of interventions that have been tried is actually kind of limited. They keep repeating failed tries.

          • pyrrhus says:

            Speaking as a former teacher and parent, any school with good discipline and parental involvement will improve outcomes somewhat, though heredity will remain the dominant force….Hence the relative success of Catholic schools in Chicago, compared with public schools..But in today’s black community, that means expelling quite a few kids who are disruptive, which is politically unacceptable in Democrat ruled cities…..Best solution is to abolish public schools, which are only very expensive baby sitting organizations, and let the parents in each community decide what they want….

          • AppSocRes, tell me how considering how little geneticists know how intelligence is inherited, do you know so confidently “Negros” have low intelligence? You have come to a conclusion in a subject area that stretches beyond the abilities of modern science to determine.

            Low academic performance in “Negros” isn’t debatable, although it is more complex than “Black people do bad in school”, there are definitely all kinds of exceptions to this rule.

            Much of this low academic performance has to do with nurture not nature. Take into consideration that African Americans and almost all people of African descent around the world deal with societal disadvantages the moment they step into the classroom. People can debate all day long how much of an impact social disadvantages make, maybe sometimes almost nothing, maybe sometimes a huge difference.

            • gcochran9 says:

              Tell me about the exceptions. If we’re talking populations, even small ones like a single high school, I can’t think of any.

              Or, if you would, tell me what data we have that that is inconsistent with AppSocRes’s statement. Again, I can’t think of any.

          • AppSocRes, also don’t call them “Negros.” Nobody uses that term anymore. You don’t live in a linguistic isolate. You don’t use that term because it’s the designated word to describe Africans. You intentionally use it instead of “African” or “Blck” to degrade and insult Africans.

            Why should anyone trust your opinions on differences in racial intelligence and behavior if you chose to refer to use one racial group with an insulting word?

            • gcochran9 says:

              “negro’ is out of fashion but it was never particularly insulting.

              • jimbo says:

                LIke all euphemisms, it had a limited lifespan. You change the word to try to escape the associations of the old word, but when those associations catch up with it, you have to change it again. Thankfully the too-many-syllables “african-american” seems to be going out and “person of color” (easily shortened to “POC”) seems to be coming in. (Haven’t heard of anyone losing their job over calling someone african-american, but the time will come…) The only problem with POC seems to be that everyone with a tan is calling themselves one, and blacks can’t stand to share the spotlight with anyone. I’m predicting it won’t last long.

              • Jim says:

                Martin Luther King often used the word “Negro” in his speeches.

            • Peter Lund says:

              Is it alright if I call you Sammy? Sammy is a very offensive word, isn’t it?

            • Ilya says:

              That reminds me of my childhood in Israel: in a (secular) elementary school we learned to write the “+” in an incomplete fashion: the lower part of the vertical line would never be completed beyond the intersection point with the horizontal one. Why? To never make a cross.

              While I understand the impetus of Holocaust survivors refusing to teach their children to draw cross (emotional trauma), I found things like that silly. I still do, since we are long past 40s.

              My understanding is that to allow to be long-term restrained by someone’s symbolism and develop phobias about it is to put oneself into an inferior position. And as a Jew, I think of myself as rather being the opposite.

              Similarly, in the US, although the absolutely ok word “Negro” reminds of the other word, the wannabe priests of the safe-space cult are moving against it. By doing so they are doing their part in defining the people they are “trying to respect and protect” into an always-dependent victim class. Thus, ironically, stripping these people of their dignity, in a roundabout way.

              • jamienyc says:

                That’s an interesting story (about Israel). Over there, they think Hitler was a christian? He did what he did in the name of Jesus? Or is it also because of the pogroms and expulsions over the earlier centuries (here, there is some connection with Christianity, since it was sometimes argued that ‘Jews killed Jesus’)?

            • Toddy Cat says:

              “almost all people of African descent around the world deal with societal disadvantages the moment they step into the classroom”

              Why? And even in Africa? Is white racism so strong that it can reach out to Nigerian children who have never seen a white man, and stunt their performance? If only we could harness the power of this strange force…

            • Steven Wilson says:

              Remember. Yesterday’s approved and required euphemism is tomorrow’s unforgivable slur.

          • shockedia says:

            [If]”kids in these schools with below average IQs were given training in trades appropriate to their intellectual capacities and were subject to a level of enforced discipline that curbed their tendencies towards disruptive and violent behavior then the results might be better. But that experiment has never been tried. And I doubt it ever will be.”

            This experiment conducted annually at length and demonstrated conclusively every Saturday and Sunday every fall: the highest level of performance witnessed by most of us not on active duty with the special forces. Less convincing experiment conducted until end of March annually.

        • gcochran9 says:

          I think there’s evidence that it did. Gaps closed some, then stabilized.

      • István Nagy says:

        “What was the most special thing about the Lutheran Gymnasium in Budapest?”
        The official name of the gym is: Budapest-Fasori Evangélikus Gimnázium.
        But I have another questions:
        What was the most special thing about the Trefort Gymnasium in Budapest?
        What was the most special thing about the Piarista Gymnasium in Budapest?
        What was the most special thing about the Berzsenyi Gymnasium in Budapest?
        These schools locate within an approx. 1km circle in the Pest side of Budapest…
        Interestingly a recently died human geneticist Endre Czeizel wrote a book on the most famous Hungarian mathematicians (Matematikusok-gének-rejtélyek, 2011, pp 479). He mentioned and analyzed 14 applied- and pure mathematicians and realized that 13 of them of Ashkenazim origin. But he concluded it is not because of genetics, it caused almost exclusively environmental effects…
        The list of the mathematicians mentioned by Czeizel:
        Bolyai János
        Kőnig Gyula
        Riesz Frigyes
        Fejér Lipót
        Haar Alfréd (Fasori gym, Budapest)
        Pólya György (Berzsenyi gym, Budapest)
        Kalmár László
        Erdős Pál (Szent istván gym, Budapest)
        Rényi Alfréd (Trefort gym,Budapest)
        Kármán Tódor (Trefort gym Budapest)
        Wigner Jenő (Fasori gym, Budapest)
        Neumann János (Fasori gym, Budapest)
        Teller Ede (Trefort gym, Budapest)
        Harsányi János (Fasori gym, Budapest)

        Other famous askenazim from Budapest:
        Szilárd Leo (Reáliskola, Budapest)
        Oláh György,(Piarista gym Budapest)
        Hevesy György (Piarista gym Budapest)
        Gábor Dénes (Berzsenyi gym Budapest)
        Tom Lantos (Berzsenyi gym, Budapest)
        Soros György (Berzsenyi gym. Budapest)

      • Cantman says:

        School doesn’t make people smarter, but spaced repetition does reliably let people remember facts for a long time afterwards. Spaced repetition is also boring as hell, hard to get people to comply with, so school quality could make a difference on purely knowledge based tests, which the SAT and GRE aren’t.

        The other question is what are you learning. Applying spaced repetition to equalitarian ideology is less useful than applying it to, say, carpentry techniques. So a free market in education would probably help, because people would probably pay more for carpentry than equalitarian ideology. Paying with a government issued voucher probably doesn’t help much there, but paying with cash would.

        Paying with cash would also just clear out a lot of wasteful ritualistic education full stop. A lot of people should end it at 11, and more at 14.

  2. magusjanus says:

    They CAN have an effect , just not the one they were pitched as having. If educational diff in 1st world has basically nil impact on adult outcome, but charters cost less, you can use charters for same outcome at fraction of cost. (And break teachers unions while at it too).

    So as a politics tactic it makes perfect sense and as an economic one arguably too in most cases. Just not in terms of actually giving kids better outcome on avg…. it’s a wash.

  3. Thomas Anger says:

    I wouldn’t have expected voucher programs or charter schools or home-schooling to “change the world”. But I would have expected them to be a good thing for those who have been able to take advantage of them. I would say that the 10 of my grandchildren who have been and are being home-schooled are the better for it. But maybe they are just polite, articulate, inquisitive, and creative because of their genes — some of which come from me. 🙂

  4. SamGamgee says:

    The funny thing is that plenty of libertarians had opposed vouchers from the beginning. For example, see this, from around the time McArdle claims to have had the greatest optimism about the success of vouchers:

    https://mises.org/library/trouble-vouchers

    • gcochran9 says:

      Worth noting that the thrust of that article is wrong. There’s nothing particularly wrong with public eductaion, except cost: the problem is too many dumb kids.

      • SamGamgee says:

        Well, the merits of public education in general are another discussion; I was just including this as an example of a libertarian who did not approve of vouchers. The way McArdle put it, you’d think all libertarians held the same views on the topic.

        One argument against public education is that, in its current form, it is naive to expect the education bureaucracy to dump its infatuation with egalitarianism and start allocating the most resources to students that show the most potential. You’re going to continue to see massive waste of money on unteachable students, money that could have been put to vastly more profitable use elsewhere. So it really is better to tear down the whole system and let the market deal with it.

        • dearieme says:

          “start allocating the most resources to students that show the most potential”: do you mean potential for going on to succeed in higher education? If so, it’s not obvious to me that allocating most resources – i assume you mean spending most money – on the brightest children is axiomatically the best move. For example, equipping an expensive workshop for teaching future skilled tradesmen might be a better use of money than many another.

          • SamGamgee says:

            Indeed, it is hardly ever obvious how to allocate resources most efficiently, which is why such decisions ought not to be left up to the government. But I was assuming that Greg’s main concern was the government overspending on dull students and that if the public school system were more selective, it would probably function somewhat better. Even if we grant that possibility for the sake of argument, it seems very unrealistic to expect the current education bureaucracy to make that shift in thinking.

        • kot says:

          I think the “infatuation with egalitarianism” was, in many cases, imposed from outside by lefty media and NCLB.

          • SamGamgee says:

            Perhaps, but there is no realistic way to reform it from the inside. It is more politically feasible to attack the Ed Dept and federal control of education from the outside. Push to abolish the Ed Dept.

      • In abstract, the education industry is a highly unlikely candidate for State (government, generally) operation. State operation of school has done to education in the US what collectivization of agriculture did to nutrition in Ukraine (1932-1933), China (1958-1962), Cambodia (1975-1979) and Ethiopia (1983-1985). State-run education is an example of “industrial policy” (State control of investment). It does not take 12 years at $12,000 per pupil year to teach a normal child to read and compute. The US K-12 credential industry has become a make-work program for dues-paying members of the NEA/AFT/AFSCME cartel. Compulsory, unpaid labor is slavery. In the US today, children work, unpaid, as window-dressing in the massive make-work program for government employees that people call “the public school system”. You can’t eat a transcript. Training an artistically inclined or mechanically inclined child for an academic career using the transcript as the incentive is like training a cat to swim using carrots as the reward. Schools offer to many normal children no reason to do what schools require.
        In Hawaii, juvenile arrests fall when school is not in session. Juvenile hospitalizations fall when school is not in session. There is a lot wrong with government operation of schools.

        • gcochran9 says:

          There is some truth in what you say, but even more raw stupidity.

          • Do you like leather?
            You disagree, but where? To a devout Marxist, there should be no private industry.. To a devout Libertarian there should be no government. Normal people fall somewhere between these extremes. What makes the education industry a more likely candidate for State operation than, say, the housing construction industry or the grocery industry? Governments operate through the blunt instrument of bureaucracy. Given the wild variety of individual children’s interests and abilities and the wide variety of education system outputs (the possible career paths that children will pursue as adults) the education industry is ill-suited to bureaucratic operation.
            On the job training is “education” as much as is shop class or Algebra class. Compulsory attendance statutes, minimum wage laws, and child labor laws put on the job training off-limits to most normal children.
            I recommend: …
            Chubb and Moe, Politics, Markets, & America’s Schools
            Steuerle, et. al., Vouchers and the Provision of Public Services
            Coulson, Market Education

    • Cantman says:

      Vouchers aren’t really libertarian at all, they’re an arguably more efficient way of hiring managers in the state education sector. They’re an economist’s proposal for making the state system better. The association with libertarianism is more a social one, that libertarianism and technical economics knowledge happen to be much more strongly correlated than, say, libertarianism and technical knowledge about building aircraft.

  5. Polynices says:

    I guess I always thought of charters as being good for helping motivated poor parents keep their kids away from criminals. Guess that’s not how they were sold.

    • You couldn’t get twelve cents of tax money if you admitted that. Private schools wink, wink, nudge, nudge tell you that, but it doesn’t always work either. Parents will pay to have their misbehaving children rescued at Christian or military academies, providing sheep’s clothing.

  6. Warren Notes says:

    George H.W. Bush, when he wasn’t paying tribute to David Cop-A-Feel or pursuing his dream of government-subsidized condoms, was big on Head Start, a similar no-bang-for-your-buck program, so it’s a natural that George W. pushed charter schools, as do Jeb Bush and the sapling Bush in Texas state government, George P. In fairness to McArdle, she may have always known that Charter schools wouldn’t work – her statement might be in the tradition of Ben Franklin, that is, avoiding giving offense when trying to persuade. Her comments are probably futile anyway, as the concept is now so entangled in Republican politics (due to its corrosive effect on teacher’s unions and the fantasy of getting one or two percent more of the black vote) that it would take a revolution (a tea party one) to dislodge it once and for all.

  7. pyromancer76 says:

    Vouchers don’t have to be used for charter schools. They simply give caring parents a choice, charter school being one of them, proving the thesis that the parents make the difference — intelligence and culture. Besides who gets the charters for the charter schools — who controls the funding.

    Enable public schools to be under local control, including curriculum; eliminate teacher’s unions, no more “Common Core” that dumbs down all students, instill merit as best outcome, and I think the educational outcome for everyone, no matter the original IQ, also might improve as well.

  8. Your mom says:

    Where I live the charter schools are basically University of Phoenix Online In-Person. The teachers are nothing more than administrators, basically public schools fast forwarded 5 years into the future.

    They’re basically a microcosm of the local public schools because the input is the same, even with more involved parents.

    The charter schools west of my location are ok, but so are their public schools. I agree that 90 percent of this is the kids. Fill a charter school full of Asians and they’ll Excell at math and respect the faculty.

  9. JerryC says:

    Yes, it was obvious from the start. If busing didn’t work (and it didn’t), why on earth would you expect vouchers to work.

  10. Eugine Nier says:

    Also, without public schools, where would kids learn about the 21+ genders.

    • gcochran9 says:

      I’m sure they could learn something interesting at Choate, or Phillips Exeter Academy, St. Pauls, or Horace Mann – at considerably higher prices.

      • Jack says:

        Do places like Exeter get to ignore the race and gender war stuff?

        • They are very good at managing it in the way the Ivies are. They get black students that test well, have wealthy parents, or come from foreign parts.

          Only once have I heard of a statewide study which ranked school districts according to what the test scores were in grade 12 versus what they had been in grade 1. Hanover! NH High School, which regards itself as a prep school, did not score in the top 20. But even that list had some weaknesses. The top schools tended to be those districts where high-tech jobs had made a rural town into a fashionable suburb in the last two decades. Still, it was an improvement. Unsurprisingly, though, there wasn’t that much difference between schools. BTW, my town’s high school has learned to game the system a bit. It now regularly scores as one of the best in the state, but observant folks who live here know that’s not possible.

        • Peter Akuleyev says:

          Places like Exeter or Sidwell Friends get to ignore reality. Exeter students, in my experience, are far more likely than public school kids to buy into the “race and gender war stuff” because the black kids they meet are generally intelligent and polite. Send a white liberal kid to a Washington DC public school for a few months and they will probably develop a very different attitude.

      • kot says:

        Read Privilege by Shamus Khan. The kids don’t learn shit at St. Paul’s.

    • That is a difference. You can teach bright kids a lot of crap and do some damage. It’s not likely to show up in the testing, as even weeds take a while to grow.

  11. Schools may not achieve very much, but given that there is some effect, many parents and most societies are willing to pay for that difference. In subsequent decades they may pay far more for genetic screening of embryos, but that remains to be seen. I think that the vouchers argument wrapped together various presumed advantages, but in my view the key one is that it brought a simulacrum of market forces to public education.

    • gcochran9 says:

      I don’t believe that “simulacrum of market forces” has had any useful payoff.

      • SamGamgee says:

        That it wasn’t really an accurate simulacrum is a major part of the problem. If you’re a poor family and your kid is not bright, you will not see it as worthwhile to spend money on education when you can get more return by putting your kid to work as soon as he is old enough. Valuable resources are therefore not wasted on a project with small promise of return, i.e. educating a dolt. If the government is handing you a blank check, on the other hand, the economic calculation changes. That blank check, of course, ultimately comes out of someone else’s pocket and could have been put to more productive use.

    • dearieme says:

      I read somewhere that the whole thing was fiddled so that no government schools had to close. That obviously removed the most important element of market forces viz that the dud businesses go to the wall.

  12. Revyen says:

    The best case against public education seems more legitimate in terms of what sort of students you want your children to associate with and what sort of values that are promoted in the curriculum.

  13. Citizen A says:

    LoL, best example is the “success” of Basis Charter Schools in Arizona. What a for profit scam it has turned in to through gaming the system using their lobbyists- they even get a bonus payment from the state of ARizona that was purposely set up to enhance their profits.

    The really funny part is they are trading on the last dregs of belief in a mericratic system.

    And when the corruption becomes totally obvious, pffft.

    And so it goes.

  14. Amanuensis says:

    If it’s possible to read and roll one’s eyes at the same time, I managed this feat. A tour de force of wishful thinking and denial of human nature and racial and political reality.

  15. ohwilleke says:

    The case that excellent charter schools make much of a difference is weak. Sustained academic success relative to selection in entering student characteristics happens, but its rare and almost impossible to reproduce consistently.

    The case that historically very bad schools make a negative difference, in contrast, is pretty strong. For example, at the worst school in Denver about ten years ago, only about 5% of students identified as “gifted” (i.e. 98th percentile plus on Raven’s Progressive Matrixes) graduated from high school and entered college without needing remedial classes — far less than other schools in the district. A truly toxic environment can impair learning or educational prospects. Maybe only 2%-10% of schools fit this classification in a given school district, but they are definitely out there.

    An overall system of charters/vouchers/school choice mostly creates benefits by making it possible for parents to remove children from bad schools, which makes it much more likely that bad schools with falling enrollment will be shut down. In contrast, in a system without school choice, it is extremely hard to shut down a bad school and it almost never happens so bad schools continue to do harm.

  16. Toddy Cat says:

    The reason that school vouchers don’t make much difference is that schools of any kind don’t make that much difference. It’s just like parenting, Sure, really bad schools can screw kids up, just like really bad parents can, but once you get past a certain (probably pretty low) threshold, the impact is just not all that great. That’s not to say that it isn’t worthwhile to try to make sure that schools and education meet some basic standards, but what can be accomplished beyond that is very limited. Just as in parenting, it’s certainly important not to starve your kid, or beat them senseless, or sexually abuse them, and to talk to them and treat them in a caring, loving manner; but playing Mozart for them in the crib, or buying them “Baby Genius” toys, is not likely to help much. Ditto education.

  17. egregious philbin says:

    the big secret is that schools don’t really make anyone smarter.

    the sad thing is teachers are expected to turn lead into gold.

  18. MawBTS says:

    In 1929, a British school superintendent called LP Benzenet simply stopped teaching math to primary school children. That is, up to (equiv) grade 6 they did zero formal study of maths.

    In grade 6 he started teaching math again, and by grade 7 his students were tested on it. They did exactly as well as students who had studied maths from the very start of school.

    What exactly is the value of sending a child to school? I’m certain it’s not zero. But there’s also signs that it isn’t incredibly high.

    • gcochran9 says:

      I’ve heard of similar results with students that started school very late (held back for farm work).

      Could be nonzero – a negative number.

    • Yudi says:

      Basic literacy and numeracy are surely the most important things students learn, as well as some softening of manners and a vague knowledge of the world outside their narrow area or career domain. A key concept educated people understand is uniformitarianism–no, there are not dragons or men with faces on their chests in faraway lands. Furthermore, both the laws of physics and human psychology largely apply elsewhere. Shit happens, as opposed to being caused by witches or elfshot.

      Most likely, having a largely educated populace has caused us to forget how essential these basics are.

      • Yudi says:

        https://tinyurl.com/yabusab3 (click on page 333)

        This conversation, from Frederick Law Olmsted’s book about his travels in the South, illustrates my points. William, the slave he talks to, has a strong grasp of practical matters, such as what he and others would do if freed, and the curiosity of whites not wanting freed slaves to live in the US. He also predicts what ended up happening after slavery ended: since all the whites owned the land, the freedmen would have to work for them, much as before.

        But as soon William gets off the beaten path of everyday life, his confusion about the world is evident: he thinks all shorelines need levees to hold back the sea like Louisiana does (when Olmsted disputes this, William claims Louisiana must thus be 5000 feet under sea level), does not know where or what France is, and thought mountains were “a dark patch of sky” when he first saw them.

        Olmsted’s portrayal of William is relatively humanistic, especially for the time. What we seem to be seeing is the effects on a practical, intelligent individual of being deprived of a basic education.

      • SamGamgee says:

        But for the purposes of this discussion, you need to establish the value not of education in this broad sense (which could come from any source, such as the increased knowledge anybody can obtain in a globally connected world), but of government-run education in particular. Was William’s ignorance due to his lack of state schooling or due to the generally higher level of ignorance in a world before the Internet and relatively cheap international travel?

    • Halvorson says:

      The best part of that article is this nugget:

      “In an article published in 2005, Patricia Clark Kenschaft, a professor of mathematics at Montclair State University, described her experiences of going into elementary schools and talking with teachers about math. In one visit to a K-6 elementary school in New Jersey she discovered that not a single teacher, out of the fifty that she met with, knew how to find the area of a rectangle.[2]”

      “In those innocent days, I thought that the teachers might be interested in the geometric interpretation of (x + y)^2. I drew a square with (x + y) on a side and showed the squares of size x^2 and y^2.Then I pointed to one of the remaining rectangles. “What is the area of a rectangle that is x high and y wide?” I asked. There was no response, so I asked the question again. “What is the area of a rectangle that is x by y?” The teachers were very friendly people, and they know how frustrating it can be when no student answers a question. “x plus y?” said two in the front simultaneously. “What?!!!” I said, horrified. Then all fifty of them shouted together, “x plus y.” Apparently my nonverbal reaction had not been a sufficient clue that the original answer was wrong.”

      The school was in Newark.

      • ziel says:

        My daughter student-taught in Newark for a year. There was a quiz with the question “What country are you in right now?” Puzzled looks abounded. So she tried some prompting. What country is Newark in? Nothing. What country is New Jersey a part of? Nothing. finally, What country is Barack Obama president of? “America?!?”

    • Smithie says:

      I always get a kick out of those who advocate getting rid of summer vacation on the grounds that the kids won’t forget what they learned by the time they come back.

    • Janet says:

      There’s such a thing as “unschooling”, where kids are kept home and just allowed to learn whatever they want, however they want. Their average test results were only about one year behind the average kid, as I recall. In comparison, students in the same classroom with one disruptive student… were a full year behind average, and with more than one disruptive student, even worse off.
      People learn what’s interesting or important to them– kids or adults. Most of what I do all day is either entirely self-taught (e.g. computer coding), or learned because I actively sought out teaching in the topic on my own, for my own reasons (e.g. mandolin playing). Smart kids, like smart adults, have more things that are interesting to them, and more things are possible for them (which is a prerequisite for being either important or interesting). Bad schools can snuff out desires and potentials, but good schools can’t create potential where it doesn’t exist.
      I think that most of the schooling debates are really ways to dodge out of an honest discussion about what kind of prospects the not-so-smart will have in our society (i.e. what kind of job will the IQ-80 guy/gal actually have? What kind of social status will he/she have, and in what is that status based? How will that guy/gal be protected from exploitation by the IQ-120 guy/gal?) MUCH easier to argue over Common Core, teachers’ unions, etc. than talk about that guy/gal’s life prospects over the next 60-80 years.

    • The NYTimes wrote an article about him in 1989, which might have been when they had good fact checkers.

      Here’s the report listed in his wiki page:
      http://www.inference.org.uk/sanjoy/benezet/three.html

      But I don’t see that it contains any data on the supposed comparison w/ the other schools.

    • What exactly is the value of sending a child to school?

      Getting them out of the house for 8 hours a day so Mom and Dad can make extra income.

      Putting them in a room with all of their peers and giving them a single, government approved narrative.

  19. “If an educational program shows amazing results, and there’s any possible way it’s selection bias – then it’s selection bias.” Scott Alexander, over at Slate Star Codex

  20. Observer says:

    Tino Sanandaji pointed out that the so called terrible US public schools actually have results the equal, or better, than Europe or Asia. Provided you look at the results of European & Asian students. Sanandaji writes:

    “Of course, the biggest myth that the media reporting of PISA scores propagates is that the American public school system is horrible.

    The mean score of Americans with European ancestry is 524, compared to 506 in Europe, when first and second generation immigrants are excluded. So much for the bigoted notions that Americans are dumb and Europeans are smart. This is also opposed to everything I have been taught about the American public school system.

    For Asian-American students (remember this includes Vietnam, Thailand and other less developed countries outside Northeast Asia), the mean PISA score is 534, same as 533 for the average of Japan, South Korea, Singapore and Hong Kong. Here we have two biases going in opposite directions: Asians in the U.S are selected. On the other hand we are comparing the richest and best scoring Asian countries with all Americans with origin in South and East Asia.

    http://tino.us/2010/12/the-amazing-truth-about-pisa-scores-usa-beats-western-europe-ties-with-asia/

  21. DataExplorer says:

    According to Adam Perkins, in a recent interview with Stefan Molyneaux, randomized control trials of Head Start recipients showed that whilst early intervention had no impact on IQ, it did have an impact on life outcomes by age 40. He doesn’t cite the exact study in the conversation but does mention James Heckman a few minutes later as someone who has studied early intervention. It is at minute 58 of the interview, here is the direct link:

    Is this accurate? If the right educational environment does have a positive impact on life outcomes then why should it matter if it does not impact IQ scores?

    • US says:

      A few thoughts that sprang to mind (I’ve previously studied educational economics during my post-grad, but it’s been a while and I don’t really care enough about this stuff to go into details):

      i. It might matter if the intervention is costly and the benefits will only show up decades later.

      ii. Especially if the most convincing interventions are also the most intensive interventions, which are impossible to scale anyway (think Perry Preschool).

      iii. When you’re dealing with benefits which are only to be attained far into the future, your choice of discount rate can easily be the most important variable in a cost-benefit analysis, and one that can in many instances basically be adjusted to give you whatever result you like.

      iv. Even if long-term interventions of some kind might be a good idea and improve outcomes, don’t expect politicians to prioritize variables like these when they need to win their election next year.

      • US says:

        The idea that intensive early interventions can improve (some) outcomes (such as crime and educational outcomes) also long-term is, as far as I am aware, much less contested than is the idea that such interventions are affordable/scalable/provide enough benefits to justify the costs.

        • gcochran9 says:

          Considering the general pattern of low replication in the social sciences, plus the very strong motivation of the researchers to get the left answer, it’s possible that there’s exactly zero to the whole idea.

      • SamGamgeej says:

        In the political sphere, people don’t think enough like economists. They think the alternatives under consideration are “intervention” and “no intervention,” when in fact the alternatives are “return on investment in education” and “return on investment in any other possible project that requires the same scarce resources.”

    • MawBTS says:

      Head Start provides health screenings and dental check-ups, right?

      That sort of thing could impact later life outcomes.

      • spottedtoad says:

        I have a friend who always points out the first Head Start pilots were partially done in counties in Mississippi with endemic TB. Preschool can make a difference when the alternative is spitting up blood.

        There are some decent randomized studies that suggest that the best charter schools have short to medium-term effects in the range of a quarter to a third of a standard deviation. But you can’t “stack” this effect. If a kid goes in middle school and then goes again in high school he gets the same sized total effect size as the kid who just went to the charter high school or just went to the charter middle school.

    • Warren Notes says:

      I wonder if what is being referred to in the video is what the author describes as “a somewhat speculative exercise” in the Appendix of this paper:
      http://www.people.fas.harvard.edu/~deming/papers/Deming_HeadStart.pdf

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