Saturday, August 25, 2007

When loving parents choose segregation - Opinion -

When loving parents choose segregation - Opinion -

But a well-documented and powerful educational phenomenon known as the 'peer effect' comes into play. Simply put, Johnny stands a much better chance of academic success in a school filled with privileged kids whose parents value education and push them to excel. The likelihood of Johnny achieving at high levels plummets if you put him in a school where most students come from disadvantaged backgrounds and don't get enough encouragement and support from home. Even in the unlikely event that the two schools are exactly the same in every other way — including teacher quality — Johnny probably will fare much better where he is surrounded by affluent students. Will sending Johnny to school with disadvantaged kids make him a better person? Maybe. Will it make him a better student? Almost certainly not.
Save me some google time... does anyone have any links to studies documenting the "peer effect"? Specifically, do middle class kids do better when they are sent to upper class schools?

update: hat tip to Joanne


Anonymous said...

I don't have a study for quite what you want, but the book "Beyond the Classroom - Why School Reform has Failed and What Parents Need to Do", by Laurence Steinberg discusses peer effects quite a lot.

The short version is that peer groups matter *tremendously* (especially for kids in the ~10-16 year old range). If I remember correctly, picking a peer group is one of the most important things a parent can do (according to Steinberg).

-Mark R.

rightwingprof said...

A study finding that sending "disadvantaged" kids to affluent schools has no effect was just discussed on (I believe) Joanne Jacobs. I certainly see little (if any) evidence of a "peer effect" such as described here at the university.

Anonymous said...

Link to the Joanne Jacobs post is here:

Note that the families were relocated, not just/only that the kids when to new/better schools.

One interesting bit from her post is, "In Baltimore, parents who used vouchers to move often didn’t enroll their children in better schools, Stefanie DeLuca writes. Parents didn’t see school quality as important; they believed learning depends on hard work and a good attitude."

I'll also note that Steinberg tracked peer groups from within schools ... moving your kid to a better school won't help if he/she ends up hanging out with the wrong peer group in the new school.

-Mark Roulo