Green Dot saves the Planet

Sam Dillon writes in the New York Times about Locke High School's turn-around in Los Angeles.
As recently as 2008, Locke High School here was one of the nation’s worst failing schools, and drew national attention... Now, two years after a charter school group took over, gang violence is sharply down, fewer students are dropping out, and test scores have inched upward... But progress is coming at considerable cost: an estimated $15 million over the planned four-year turnaround, largely financed by private foundations. That is more than twice the $6 million in federal turnaround money that the Department of Education has set as a cap for any single school... Locke High, with 3,200 students, sprawls across six city blocks in south-central Los Angeles. The school’s principal in 2007 complained publicly that the Los Angeles Unified School District had made it a dumping ground for problem teachers... In spring 2008, only 15 percent of students passed state math tests.
The school's normal budget is 30 million.
The school is twice the size of a normal high school.
The budget is 9,375 per student - I'm assuming that's normal for Los Angeles schools.
The "massive" investment represents a one-eighth increase in the annual budget.
The principal has to accept employees foisted off as less competent by the district manager. Who knows why? Most principals don't have to hire people unless they like them.

What was the problem the charter take-over cured? That's what you have to ask yourself, because the "charters save the planet" story is who, not HOW.

After eliminating upper management (the mayor) and making the facility function properly (clean, neat, adequate space) and tailoring the faculty to the needs of the students (not mentioned directly) the school is able to function normally. Increased investment necessary was one twelve and a half percent of the normal budget.

How realistic is that? First take a look at the quote about only fifteen percent of students passing math tests. Doesn't that mean that nearly three-quarters of the population needs remediation? Probably not. Let's say half. That leaves us with the population of a normal high school performing at the level of the lowest quartile of a normal high school. That means the school-within-a-school has specialized staffing needs. If those needs are met, then the institution should be capable of functioning. I have a friend who is an adolescent psychiatrist in Boston. When I told her that our code for "lowest quartile" means reading at a 4th grade level, she retorted sharply that those kids had developmental disabilities. Do you still think the school doesn't need a specialized staff? The fact is that when a school does get the staff, the specially trained staff is barely capable of making headway.

If those needs are ignored and the school becomes a dumping ground for people that are ejected from other sites, the institution should fall on its face - which is what apparently happened prior to Green Dot's management.

Does this say that changing management in a similar way will be effective at other schools? Maybe, if the school has exactly the same situation.

What situation is that? Management that closes its eyes and desperately wishes for problems to disappear and management that will hand-wave (consultants and committees) when confronted by reality. Management that wants to placate wealthy populations by allocating resources in their favor and shifting funds in their general direction. Management that sweeps up children and drops them into a limbo it created for them.


Education Policy is Health Policy

What would you say if I told you universal health coverage will create a fabulous surge in educational attainment? At the very least, it will result in less family stress in low SES families. In fact, it may have already happened to some people. Read on MacDuff!

It is entirely possible that the earned income credit will turn out to be the most effective education reform in history. At least that’s the way it looks from my notes on this symposium:

Notes from symposium: The Long Reach of Early Childhood Poverty - AAAS Meeting, San Diego

Greg Duncan

Katherine Magnuson

W. Thomas Boyce at U of British Columbia, Vancouver. Paper titled: Neurobiological pathway of Poverty Associated Lifetime Risk of Health Achievement

Social data comes from:
PSID Panel study of Income Dynamics. Births in 1968 thru 1975 measured to 2008 (To age 37: outcomes for school, employment, out of wedlock births, parental aspirations.)

First caveat – Poor health, arrest, non-marital birth are not strongly correlated in the study. But adjusted education and income are most strong.

Adult earnings are affected by early impact of family income and the highest correlation is during the period under age 5. The effect gives 17 percent higher wage total for every $3,000 increase in family income. This indicates the earned
income credit which provided families in the study approximately that amount of money may have as much effect as some educational interventions.

Norway had an analogous study where there was a 7 percent impact and in the American Indian population where gambling revenues were shared on a per capita basis, recipients experienced about the same benefit as main group at 17%. Furthermore, ability to sustain full-time employment seems to be impacted, resulting in 152 hours per year additional hours worked and higher lifetime income.

Magnuson: Achievement and health during childhood produced about .3 standard deviation on tests. American Indians had tax credit and casino money on reservation, experiencing a similar effect. When welfare was cut back, some states analyzed the results of about 33,000 subjects. (notes unclear) Indian parents’ income increased to near national average from 1993 to 2000 during the study.

Stress effects measured:
Linver, Brooks-Gunn and Kohen 2002
1/2 a std deviation or 1/3 of the total effect is due to home learning environment.

W. Thomas Boyce U of British Columbia, Vancouver
Paper titled: Neurobiological pathway of Poverty Associated Lifetime Risk of Health Achievement

Epigenetic confirmation: stress response systems have effects on organ systems.
1. cortisol levels higher in low SES socio-economic status
2. natural killer cells lower
3. cariogenic bacteria higher (teeth)
4. HPA activation affects cortisol
5. visual cortex – P1 and N1 activation in visual
striata react to novel stimuli differs from controls
6. PID NF Kappa B and cortisol affect toll-like receptor 4

Here is something for people interested in the consequences of violence or bullying; social dominance increases stress responses – ie subordinate children have more stress problems and SES exacerbates it.

What Should Interest Legislators?

In England, budget cuts to food subsidies for students is reported in the Guardian:
A coalition of senior doctors and nurses have written to the education secretary, Michael Gove, expressing "deep concern" at his decision to axe plans for free school meals for half a million primary school children from low-income families.
While in the U.S. research points to the school lunch program as a proven intervention:
The study finds that the program leads to a significant increase in educational opportunity and attainment, but an insignificant increase in health levels from childhood to adulthood.
Other research points toward the "earned income credit" being the most significant education intervention in history. (W. Thomas Boyce U of British Columbia, Vancouver
Neurobiological pathway of Poverty Associated Lifetime Risk of Health Achievement.)

Are there things the government can and should be doing that will help grant all citizens equal access to early development? Should these things create a foundation of public policy? I think so.