Social science researchers across the nation are scratching their heads. Where in the world did Kristof get this one? For decades, solid analyses have demonstrated that while aspects of schooling can be important in improving student outcomes and alleviating the effects of poverty, the effects of factors schools cannot and do not control are much greater (for a place to start, read Doug Downey's work). Kristof emphasizes teachers and improving teacher quality by taking on the teachers' unions because he reads the data to mean that "research has underscored that what matters most in education - more than class size or spending or anything - is access to good teachers." Simply put, wrong. Access to good teachers is the most important factor affecting student achievement that is under schools' control (or as many put it, the most important school-level factor). What matters most in educational outcomes is the poverty felt by students' families. And to my knowledge, no study has ever rigorously compared the effectiveness of interventions based on cash transfers, housing subsidies, and teacher quality improvement-- what's needed to reach the kind of conclusion with which Kristof drives his argument. At the same time, a simple glance at the relative effects of programs like Moving to Opportunity, New Hope, etc which target poverty itself rather than how adults interact with children from poverty (the aim of improving teacher quality), should convince anyone than his target is misplaced.(emphasis added)
That is one densely packed paragraph of bad reasoning. One more poorly reasoned sentence and it might have collapsed upon itself into a educational black hole, if you will. Fortunately the following hasty call for censorship, another Goldrick-Rab staple, was placed in the next paragraph.
Experts who think daily (Ed -- how about the ones that only think fortnightly?) about how to end poverty could, and undoubtedly will, inform the next steps taken by Democrats. Dems should listen to them, and not to Kristof.
First of all, there are few if any solid analyses of the effects of poverty on educational outcomes. I don't think there is any scientifically sound research upon which anyone could draw the causal conclusion that alleviating poverty has educationally significant effects on student outcomes. But why don't we take a quick glance at the two pseudo-research studies Goldrick-Rab cites:
The Moving to Opportunity (MTO) for Fair Housing Demonstration Program interim report found:
MTO had no detectable effects on the math and reading achievement of children.
OK. Let's move on to the New Hope Project:
One of the most striking findings from the earlier evaluation reports was New Hope’s positive effects on children’s academic achievement at the two-year mark, in the form of increased teacher-rated academic skills, and at the five-year mark, in the form of higher standardized reading test scores (these tests were not administered at Year 2) and higher parent-reported grades in reading. However, these effects did not persist to Year 8, at least for the full child sample, although there were continued small effects on reading test performance for boys. No effects on math test performance were found. Overall, there was a tendency for impacts to be greater for boys than for girls. (emphasis added)(See p. 29 and Table 5)
Do you remember the scene in the movie My Cousin Vinny where Vinny's girlfriend is looking at all the bad pictures his girlfriend has taken to help him win the lawsuit against his cousin and his friend that he's trying to win?
Okay, you're helping. We'll use your pictures. Ah! These *are* gonna be - you know, I'm sorry, these are going to be a help. I should have looked at these pictures before. I like this, uh, this is our first hotel room, right? That'll intimidate Trotter. Here's one of me from behind. And I didn't think I could feel worse than I did a couple of seconds ago. Thank you. Ah, here's a good one of the tire marks. Could we get any farther away? Where'd you shoot this, from up in a tree? What's this over here? It's dog shit. Dog shit! That's great! Dog shit, what a clue! Why didn't I think of that? Here's one of me reading. Terrific. I should've asked you along time ago for these pictures. Holy shit, you got it, honey! You did it! The case cracker, me in the shower! Ha ha! I love this! That's it!
The MTO and New Hope studies are the case crackers of poverty interventions on education outcomes.
Both studies show what most studies typically show for poverty interventions on education outcomes: small or undetectable effects that tend not to persist past adolescence.
And, here we have Goldrick-Rab citing them as conclusive proof of just the opposite. Simply amazing. The woman has no shame. Where's Bracey's rotten apple award when you need it most?