Monday, June 6, 2016

Rich, Cox, and Bloch's "Money, Race and Success: How Your School District Compares"

If you are familiar with financial and racial disparities that exist in the US, you can probably guess where this article is going based on its title. Kids in wealthy school districts do better in school than poor kids. Within each school district, white kids do better than African American and Latino kids.

How did they get to this conclusion? For every school district in the US, the researchers used the Stanford Educational Data Archive to figure out 1) the median household income within each school district and 2) the grade level at which the students in each school district perform (based on federal test performance).

This piece also provides multiple examples for use within the statistics classroom. Highly sensitive examples, but good examples none the less.

-Most obviously, this data provides an easy-to-follow example of linear relationships and correlations. The SES:school performance relationship is fairly intuitive and easy to follow (see below)

From the New York Times: Positive linear relationship between parental SES and performance on standardized tests

-The data is provided in an interactive format. You can type in the name of a given school district so that you can see where that school district falls in the scatter plot. This makes this example interactive and more applicable to your students' lives and experiences. Below, I have highlighted the school district in the city where I teach.

-The data provides a good example for explaining between group and within group differences. As discussed, between school districts, high SES students outperform low SES. However, within school districts, white students out perform black and Hispanic students (see below: Here, the data is divided by school district as well as white, Hispanic, and black students within each district).

From the New York Times: SES x test performance x race

So, there is a lot to unpack here. A lot of sensitive stuff to unpack. is all illustrated with interactive scatter plots that beautifully illustrate correlation and linear relationships.

I think caution should be used with this example. You can also delve into issues of race. The data demonstrates, time and time again, that if you break up data by ethnicity, regardless of SES, white students perform better than Latino and African American students. There are many historical/SES issues related to underperformance among African-American and Latino students. If you are going to share the data related to these issues, I think that it is worth the time to address these so that racial stereotypes aren't used to explain this data (the authors of the NYTs piece do a good job of doing so).