The argument revolves around the popular premise that the effects of low socio-economic status cause low student achievement. I argue that large-scale empirical research like the Baltimore study and Project Follow Through refute such causal interpretations which are merely based on the correlational data we have on SES and student achievement, like that found in the Coleman report.
John, however, raises the following point regarding the Coleman Report:
You should realize you wouldn't be digging yourself into such a deep hole if you would back off from gratuitous attacks on others, like the people who issued the Bolder Broader challenge, and didn't try to refute the Coleman Report with sweeping comments.
I am not trying to refute the Coleman report. I am refuting the causal implications John and his Broader, Bolder allies draw from the Coleman Report.
The Coleman Report of 1966 was based on achievement data on over a half million students. The Report noted the disparity that existed between at-risk students and those not at-risk. The report compared schools of equal physical characteristics serving both groups. Coleman's finding was that money spent on smaller classes, laboratories, counseling, higher teacher salaries, and higher teacher qualifications were not correlated with academic achievement.
If the physical characteristics of the schools and all the other factors made no difference in student performance, there still remains the possibility that the instruction at-risk students received was inadequate. This possibility, which has been shown to exist in such large scale controlled research studies as Project Follow through and the Baltimore study serves as clear indictment of the educational system and a clear premise that the instruction provided to at-risk kids needed to improve.
The premise goes like this: if the instruction is inadequate, school factors won't matter and SES effects will predominate. Conversely, if the instruction is adequate, school factors will predominate rather than SES factors. This premise is consistent with the Coleman Report findings which examined an educational system in which inadequate instruction predominated, before we discovered that adequate instruction did, in fact, exist.
This data has not been refuted by the Broader, Bolder proponents. They simply ignore it and hopes that no one will notice. This is precisely the reason I always bring it up--to watch them go through rhetorical gymnastics trying to explain it away.