On school quality, test scores, and SES

I am going to share a little analysis I’ve done by combining Pennsylvania’s PSSA test scores, Census ACS data,  and Department of Education statistics to refute a few popular progressive notions about education, namely, that:

1: The SAT/ACT only “measures family income”:


2: This is somehow being caused by more and better test prep efforts amongst the more affluent.

3: Higher income school districts are actually better because they spend more money.

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Understanding the academic achievement gaps

Warning: This is long somewhat meandering post and a work-in-progress

My intent here was to compile the evidence in a narrative fashion.  There are more detailed and more technical sources for much of the information I presented here, but much of it is scattered and much of it is targeted at people that are both knowledgable and willing to invest the time.  My approach here was to present the information in a relatively accessible, top-down fashion, i.e., first identify the magnitude of problem, then characterize it, then present evidence that the favored environmental explanations do not add up, and then (briefly) touch upon some more controversial hypotheses….

One of the first things that clued me into the fact that school systems and socioeconomic status cannot explain the black-white (B-W) academic achievement gaps was seeing SAT data like this:

sat race income 2003

sat race education 1995

sat race income 1995


The obvious pattern here is that high socioeconomic status (SES) blacks do no better (and often worse) than low SES whites, whether measured by their parents’ income or their parents’ educational credentials.   This is really hard to explain away as being mainly a product of poverty, bad schools, and things of that sort either.

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