As a preliminary matter, I want to make sure my position in clear.
It is not my position that environmental factors, like the home environment, don't matter. That's silly. Clearly, low-SES students are different from their middle-class peers. They are different in that they are less able to access the education that is available in your typical school (the exact causation is irrelevant). We know this already.
The issue we are debating is whether it is appropriate to assign causation to educational failure in the absence of appropriate instruction. My position is that its inappropriate and logical fallacy to do so. Corey also seems to think its also inappropriate, but nonetheless assigns causation anyway.
In summary of what went wrong at my school, let me be clear: myself and the other adults in the school failed the kids in many, many ways. The school was poorly run. I lacked adequate training. We could have done any number of things better (especially around discipline) and it would have helped the situation. But I stand by my assertion that the largest cause of problems at the school was the home life of the children.
Let's examine the reasons Corey gives:
1. If we took the low-SES kids in Corey's school and put them in a well-funded affluent suburban school and took the high-SES kids and put them in Corey's school,then Corey's school would become a high-performing school and the rich affluent school would become a failing school. I agree. The differences between the schools are educationally superficial. Both schools are designed to educate middle-class kids, not low-SES kids.
Here's a better experiment. Take low-SES kids from their low-performing school nd place them in a school with improved instruction and classroom management and see if student achievement rises to the mean level of student performance. We already know the answer from Project Follow Through. Student achievement will improve to mean levels. Providing appropriate instruction matters quite a bit, more than anything else that's been researched. The only reason why a dispute exists today, is because the research is ignored, perhaps conveniently so. Maybe Corey can supply an answer.
2. Some low-SES kids can be successfully taught using in a selective private middle-class school; these students appeared to come from stable families. Again, I agree with Corey; there is a selection bias problem with this example. Some low-SES can access middle-class instruction in a middle-class school setting. Academic success breeds motivation and reduces behavioral problems, as does the presence of a supportive family. These kids are receiving appropriate instruction. Our concern is the kids who are not.
3. It's not possible to overcome home effects given current funding levels. I disagree. The correlation between school spending and student achievement is very low, scatterplot low. As Corey concedes there are quite a few schools where low-SES students have high academic achievement at today's funding levels. These counterexample don't prove the point, but they do disprove Corey's point. What does prove the point is, once again, Project Follow Through in which dozens of schools raised student achievement of low-SES levels with funding far below today's spending levels in a controlled experiment.
4. The coleman report showed that "homes influence academic achievement more than schools." Again I agree. Given that most schools are designed to educate middle-class kids, this result is not surprising. Again, Project Follow Through, showed that school effects can compensate for the disadvantages resulting from home effects.