Home > Uncategorized > Three Research Studies Prove the Obvious: Attendance, Family Income, and Retention Policies Matter

Three Research Studies Prove the Obvious: Attendance, Family Income, and Retention Policies Matter

October 17, 2018

Over the past three weeks I have read three research reports that prove three seemingly self evident facts: attendance; family income; and retention policies all matter.

A recent study by the Economic Policy Institute proved that Woody Allen was right when he said that 80% of success is showing up. Here’s the synopsis of the research findings of Emma Garcia and Elaine Weiss:

Our analysis also confirms prior research that missing school hurts academic performance:Among eighth-graders, those who missed school three or more days in the month before being tested scored between 0.3 and 0.6 standard deviations lower (depending on the number of days missed) on the 2015 NAEP mathematics test than those who did not miss any school days.

And whether you go to a public school or a private school matters a LOT less than your mother and father’s income, as Robin Young’s interview with University of Virginia researcher Robert Pianta revealed. Here’s a synopsis of the study as rendered by Mr. Pianta:

…if you just simply look at private school versus public school — don’t consider any other factor in the kids’ history — you see huge benefits to being in private school. They’re about a standard deviation of like 15 points higher on test scores, they’re more motivated and the like. And then as soon as you put into the equation that you’re using to predict, as soon as you put in family income, those differences disappear — and they never reappear again, no matter how many other variables that you put in.

“So the idea basically being, that it’s what’s happening in kids’ families and the kinds of conditions that they’re able to purchase for their kids and the circumstances that they’re able to provide for their kids over the long haul that really matter in adding up to the kinds of things that we assessed in ninth grade.”

As I’ve cited frequently in this blog, the State of Pennsylvania found a correlation between father’s income and test scores in the 1970s and that ending has been replicated ever since then. This inconvenient fact has not stopped “reformers” from using test scores as a bludgeon to “prove” that schools serving low income children are “failing”.

The third study that proves what any school administrator could have told you involved the impact of holding middle school students back. As reported by Chalkbeat writer Matt Barnum, when Middle School aged youngsters are held back their probability of dropping out of school increases:

Being held back a grade in middle school, researchers found, substantially increased the chance that students dropped out of high school. In Louisiana, being retained in either fourth or eighth grade increased dropout rates by nearly 5 points. In New York City, the spike was startling: dropout rates were 10 points higher than similar students who weren’t held back.

The notion that all children learn at the same rate is preposterous on its face… anyone who has more than one child knows that each of them matured at a different rate and each learned to walk, talk, and read at different times in their lives. Yet the idea that everyone learns the same way and at the same rate persists and underlies the testing of our students who are bathed in age-based cohorts.

It is maddening that we spend time and energy proving what has already been well established… but I suppose until what has been well established in RESEARCH is well established in REALITY that we will continue to prove the self-evident.

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