October 10, 2006

Hanushek Smacks Down Kozol

In his new book, Eric Hanushek delivers the smack down on Johnathan Kozol who has been insisting these many years that the funding gap between middle class and inner city schools was the cause of the achievement gap between white and minority kids. Thus, to erase the achievement gap all we had to do was eliminate the funding gap:
In both Savage Inequalities and its 1995 successor, Amazing Grace, Kozol described the once beautiful and successful Morris High School in the Bronx as “one of the most beleaguered, segregated and decrepit secondary schools in the United States. Barrels were filling up with rain in several rooms. . . . Green fungus molds were growing in the corners” of some rooms, and the toilets were unusable. Kozol wrote that it would take at least $50 million to restore Morris’s decaying physical plant and suggested that the white political establishment would never spend that much money on a ghetto school. The city actually did spend more than $50 million to restore Morris High School after the publication of Savage Inequalities, though Kozol had not a word to say about it when discussing Morris in the second book. Of course the newly gleaming building had no perceptible effect on the academic performance of the students.
Yeah, that didn't work out so well now did it?

You can't spend your way to academic success.


Kilian Betlach said...

No, you can't spend your way to academic success, but neither can you reasonably assert that funding inequities play no role in the perpetuating low-performance, or in limiting the efforts of those who seek to reverse the tide. My school has lengthened the day to provide increased instructional opportunities. This costs money. We used a High Priority school grant for two years, quadrupled the number of proficient students, and lost the money because we're no longer High Priority. Does this make sense? In areas where kids have more needs, longer days and after school programs are more critical, ADA is relatively less and funding scarce. Does this make sense?

Reform level #1 is quality professionals and effective teaching. Reform level #2 is adequate, not equitable funding.

MassParent said...

Perhaps you should double-check this finding with John Hechinger, reporting for the Wall Street Journal. .

Hechinger reported on a miraculous improvement in math scores at the Garfield Elementary School, which he concluded was based on the use of Singapore Math curriculum. But a casual inspection of the facilities at Garfield suggest that resources may play some role.

Maybe the lesson to learn is that resources have to go beyond school buildings, but I suspect most of the improvements at the Garfield School will be difficult to replicate, because the ministers of education from Australia, New Zealand, Japan, and Russia probably are too busy to shuttle between 10,000 inner city schools.

But then again, reviewing the numbers posted in the WSJ article, an improvement of proficiency from 40 to 43% isn't exactly an earthshaking improvement. It probably isn't even enough to pass AYP in Massachusetts.

Maybe that is why the Garfield School isn't reporting MCAS results any more.

Actually, I think I smell a rat. It looks like there should be more than enough students at Garfield to surpass the 10-students tested threshold for MCAS reporting, so either the Mass DOE has excused Garfield from participating in MCAS, or DOE has chosen to put Garfield's test results "under review".

MassParent said...

For those interested in what is actually happening at Morris High, rather than in demagoguery, there is a story here

I'll summarize; in 2002, the city split Morris into four small high schools sharing the renovated building. There is now a waiting list for entry to each of the schools. Vandalism is down by 20%, and security staff has been cut from 36 to 12. The conclusion in the article:

Here, teachers and administrators find a real opportunity to work together for better results for their students. That is why principals enjoy their work, why students feel they matter, and why teachers now like working in a place that for too many years felt hopeless.

Maybe that could have happened if the school had been left rotting and was then split into smaller schools, but I suspect the facility is a contributing factor to the renaissance.

Anonymous said...

"Here, teachers and administrators find a real opportunity to work together for better results for their students. That is why principals enjoy their work, why students feel they matter, and why teachers now like working in a place that for too many years felt hopeless."

That's very nice and touchy-feely, and I'll probably have people over for a rousing kumbayah festival later, but it has nothing to do with the purpose of the school.

Education isn't about making anybody feel good. Education isn't about so-called self-esteem. Education is about education.

That's all education is about.

MassParent said...

So you think local control and small rather than large groups within a school don't matter?

You wouldn't prefer to send your own kids to a school with 20% lower vandalism, one-third the security staff, and a waiting list to get in?

KDeRosa said...

I'd greatly prefer to end my kid to a school that knew how to teach him how to read, write, and do math. Morris remains a school that is unable to that, new window dressings notwithstanding.

Anonymous said...


I would prefer to send my kids to a school that has higher than a 41% proficiency rate in English and higher than a 28% proficiency rate in Math... thats right... 28%.


Oh, by the way, they actuall declined in performance from 2004 to 2005. I wonder how they did in 2006?

And strangely the links to the schools test scores on the page you linked dont work.

So to answer your question. I wouldn't want to send my kids to this school, despite its waiting list and 20% fewer security guards.

Anonymous said...

Sorry... link here.

MassParent said...

kderosa, are you basing your conclusion about Morris on any particular data?

The S&P report says the school made AYP for 2005 (S&P does not have a breakdown of the five independent schools, so I think it is hard to know exactly what it is reporting on).

I couldn't find much current info about any of the Morris schools, but they remain a featured school and a favored methodology for public-private reform in New York City. Proficiency is not as high as you would like, but when two out of three kids coming in to the school are below grade level, and the promotion rate out of 9th grade is 15 points higher than the citywide average, it seems this model is doing better than average.

KDeRosa said...

Yes, the S&P data that shows a 28% and 41% proficiency rate in Reading and Math respectively.

Most states have set their interim AYP goals rather low. Apparently NY has sent theirs sufficiently low that 28% and 41% is considered acceptable.

it seems this model is doing better than average

The average for NYC's underperforming schools. An average so low that parents are clamoring for reform. This is your benchmark.

MassParent said...

KD, I see New York ranked as 10th best educated state here.

By NAEP standards, slightly above national averages

I see 20 high schools in the Bronx listed as in need of improvement" for 2005/2006, none with a "Morris" in the name.

And, I see the tooted Garfield School, chosen as a national example by the Wall Street Journal as an exemplary inner city school, with a "leap" of proficiency from 40 to 43%, failing to meet Massachusett's AYP.

New York, overall, appears around the national average in identifying schools in need of improvement.

I don't know much about New York's schools. But I can see enough to suggest the small schools model is one of the best bets for urban schools, and Morris seems to be one of the better examples of that success. It's a relative success, to be sure. I'd certainly prefer a different zipcode for my own kids public school. Not everyone can afford that luxury, and for those, a relatively high rate of success is better than the alternative.

KDeRosa said...


NY does not equal NYC.