Friday Reading List: School Can't Be "The Great Equalizer" When It Reinforces Privilege

Dirk Tillotson at Education Post jumps on to one of education's third rails to talk about privatization, but not in the way you might expect:

In Oakland, one of the highest achieving schools in the city is Hillcrest Elementary. It’s a “public” school that is 5 percent free and reduced-price lunch, 2 percent English-language learners, 8 percent Latino and 8 percent Black. In the neighborhood surrounding this “public” school, the average housing price is $1.6 million. Now, you’ll excuse me if I use the word “public” in quotes when I talk about Hillcrest, but sometimes I wonder what’s so “public” about a school that only admits students whose families can buy their way into an exclusive enclave. But my bullshit meter really explodes when I hear folks whose kids go to schools like Hillcrest say that charter schools aren’t public schools. Compared to what? Your “public” school?

Perhaps the most inegalitarian feature of our entire public school system in America is the inherent linkage between school attendance boundaries and real estate. That's a bedrock principle of the system, and it is fundamentally unjust. I share Tillotson's frustration at the hypocrisy.

The "pay to play" feature of American education doesn't stop at real estate. Mikhail Zinshteyn, writing at The Atlantic, looks at how wealthier students get graduate degrees that lead to greater payoffs:

The realm of graduate education is wide-ranging, and some graduate degrees yield far higher wages than others, the report shows. Based on 2015 figures, workers with professional graduate degrees, such as doctors and lawyers, earn an average of $163,000 a year between the ages of 45 and 54—typically the apex of a person’s earnings arc. By contrast, those with master’s degrees, in subjects like education or history, earn about $92,800 annually in that age range, out-earning bachelor’s degree holders by about $15,000 a year ... There are notable racial and economic differences associated with the types of graduate degrees students pursue and whether they complete their programs. Based on 2008 data, 39 percent of students who as undergraduates came from households in the lowest income quartile pursued graduate degrees; 45 percent who came from the highest quartile of household income went on to do the same.

Zinshteyn subsequently points out racial differences in degree attainment, particularly in the doctoral ranks. If education ever wants to be "the great equalizer" in this country, it will have to stop being "the great exacerbater" of socioeconomic privilege.

Speaking of privilege, Jasmine Lee of The New York Times looks at the president-elect's cabinet nominees and finds more white males than in any cabinet since the early 1980s:

If Mr. Trump’s nominees are confirmed, women and nonwhites will hold five of 21 cabinet or cabinet-level positions. He has not yet named nominees for two additional positions. “Donald Trump is rolling back the clock on diversity in the cabinet,” said Paul Light, a professor at New York University’s Wagner Graduate School of Public Service.

White men represent almost 80% of Trump's cabinet choices, but are just 30% of the total population. As I've said before, it might not be necessary for every institution in America to bear a perfect resemblance to the country's demographics, but ...

Finally, Sarah Sparks at Education Week looks at recent global testing results and finds a pattern:

The latest results of the Program for International Student Assessment give tantalizing hints of the connections between students' early-childhood education and their later math scores ... In most countries, students who had attended two to three years of preschool performed 50 scale points better in math as 15-year-olds on the 2015 PISA than those who had attended less than a year. The effect was stronger in countries with multiyear preschool systems and smaller average teacher-student ratios in the earliest grades.

The results hold even when controlling for socioeconomic status. As you can see from the accompanying chart, the United States has some of the highest rates of non-attendance in pre-school among developed countries. Lots of work to do! Have a great weekend ...