Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Bright British pupils do 50% worse if they're poor

Hmmm.  I have read the PDF of this study and am not greatly impressed.  I am perfectly sure that the overall conclusion (headline above) of the study is pretty right but I see some deficiencies in methodology and in the reasons given for the findings.

I am particularly unimpressed by the measure used to classify children as "bright".  The authors assess that by the grades in core subjects attained at the end of primary school.  But that is a product of many things -- as the report itself acknowledges -- rather than straight intelligence.  So what it tells us will necessarily be obscure.  The authors were obviously up against the current anti-intellectual horror of IQ measurement.  Nonetheless, school attainment does correlate substantially with IQ so the measure used was not entirely hopeless and did produce intelligible results.

I see the results as reflecting mainly school quality.  The authors did assess that but the measures used were, I think, distorted by political correctness.  Assessing a school as "poor" when it contains mostly minority students would cause much grinding of mental gears and the final assessment will probably therefore be dishonest to a substantial degree.  And in another bow to political correctness, the authors seem to have taken no notice of race.  The very word "race" is a no-no, of course.  Yet it is a major factor in educational attainment. In the USA, educators have been agonizing for years over the "gap" in black versus white school attainment.

So it's my suspicion that a frankly-done study would show that students who fall behind their previous levels of attainment during High School do so very largely because they are sent to  poor schools.  Poor people live in poor locations, where the schools too are poorer in various ways.  And a major reason why why schools in poor areas offer an inferior education is that poor areas are also the major location for minorities.  And middle-class parents flee as if from the plague when it comes to sending their children to schools dominated by minorities.  They know, as I suspect we all do, that minorities are harder to discipline, harder to teach and tend to drag standards down to the lowest common denominator.  A bright student sent to such a school will undoubtedly receive an inferior education.

And since I am already deep into political incorrectness, I will mention something else.  The popular category "minorities" is inadequate.  Children of subcontinental origin appear to be no great problem.  It is children of sub-Saharan African ancestry who give themselves and everyone else big problems.  Their combination of high restlessness and low IQ make them a bane on any classroom.  Where they are present in numbers, the amount taught will be minimal indeed.

So the solution to the problem of disadvantaged bright children is a lot simpler than the authors of the study below suggest:  Academic selection.  Send high IQ pupils to schools where they will be in the company of other bright students only.

So we return to the old Grammar School controversy.  Leftists hate such schools because they are "elitist" and transgress against the impossible ideal of "equality".

But perhaps there is a middle way.  Grammar schools have a whole ethos that separates them from other State schools.  But why not have a State school that is generally indistinguishable from other State schools except that it requires success in an 11-plus exam for enrolment? Any other "solution" is pissing into the wind.

Because I believe (and research has long shown) that IQ is the overwhelmingly main factor in educational attainment, I predict that such schools would get results as good as formal Grammar schools.

To break any mental logjams about IQ, let me refer readers to an amazing study here  -- which shows how wide is the reach of IQ.  It is the main factor in something well outside education and in a field that one would not expect -- unless one already knew how  wide is the reach of IQ into human behaviour.  Just read the first sentence under "Results".

If the Tories win the forthcoming election, academic selection may be revived to a degree but I can see no hope for poor but bright pupils otherwise.


Bright children from poor backgrounds are half as likely as their richer peers to succeed in tougher A-level subjects, a study shows.

Researchers found those from disadvantaged families were far less likely to study and score highly in English, maths, science, humanities and languages.

Pupils who do not take these so-called ‘facilitating’ subjects have less chance of obtaining a place at the prestigious Russell Group universities, which often favour them.

Researchers commissioned by the Department of Education at Oxford University also found poor children are much less likely to get three A-levels in any courses.

The wide-ranging study also showed that going to a decent nursery, reading for pleasure and attending an outstanding school can boost a disadvantaged pupil's chances of getting good results. Taking part in school trips and getting into a daily homework routine can also help them.

The research is based on data drawn from more than 3,000 young people who have been tracked from the age of three for the Effective Pre-School, Primary and Secondary Education (EPPSE) project.

Researchers found that just a third of bright but disadvantaged students took one of more A-levels facilitating subjects, compared to 58 per cent of their wealthier peers with the same academic ability.

Less than a fifth of the poor students followed gained at least a B in these subjects, compared to 41 per cent of their advantaged classmates.

The findings also show that just over 35 per cent of the sixth-formers identified as clever based on their test results at age 11 got three A-levels in any subjects, compared to 60 per cent of their high-achieving, richer peers.

An analysis of the data found that sixth-formers who did two to three hours of homework each night were nine times more likely to gain three A-levels than those who did none.

The study said: ‘Spending time on homework is likely to reflect both student motivation and engagement, study skills and independence, school policies and the priority teachers attach to encouraging students to study at home (or provide opportunities after school), as well as parental attitudes and support.’

The study concludes that encouraging reading for pleasure, educational trips, the chance to go to a good nursery and school, feedback on school work and a supportive home life can help disadvantaged youngsters to get good results.

It suggests that bright, poor students should get ‘enrichment’ vouchers, funded through the Pupil Premium - public funding for disadvantaged children - to help with educational trips, reading for pleasure and studies outside of the classroom.

 We must ensure that access to the best schools and opportunities for academic enrichment outside school are available to all students

Sir Peter Lampl, chairman of the Sutton Trust which commissioned the report, said: ‘The fact that bright disadvantaged students fall so far behind when they reach their A-levels shows that government and schools urgently need to do more to support able students from less advantaged homes.

‘We must ensure that access to the best schools and opportunities for academic enrichment outside school are available to all students. It is also vital that schools advise their students on the right subject choices at GCSE and A-level so as to maximise their potential.’

Professor Pam Sammons, co-author of the report, said: ‘There is no silver bullet that alone can make a difference but a combination of good schools and pre-schools, the right home learning environment and supportive teachers ready to monitor progress and provide good feedback can all ensure that bright but disadvantaged students get the chance of a good university education. There are important lessons here for teachers and policymakers seeking to reduce the equity gap in attainment.’


Posted by John J. Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.).

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