This issue has infuriated me for years. Far too many comparisons of test scores don’t match kids by their family backgrounds which is very misleading. The most powerful predictor for how well kids do in school is the education level of their parents, especially their mothers. I remember being shocked that one of my schoolmates had scored among the top students on my state’s high school physics exam. Our school was in a small town in Appalachia and had really poor science teachers. The girl who did so well on the physics exam was the daughter of a doctor and an educator. Two of my schoolmates went on to become presidents of large state universities. One was instrumental in the development of the physical infrastructure of the internet. Others have done well in a variety of fields. All of them had parents who were educated. In contrast most of the kids from poor families are barely getting by now.

Many studies that match schools on their student’s family backgrounds have found that the advantaged of schools in affluent neighborhoods, charter schools and even private schools often disappear yet the media continues to ignore that fact.


One of the top rated schools in the US News survey is a charter school in my city that is for gifted kids. The students are from well to do families either white or well educated parents from India. My local paper ignored these facts when it reported on the survey. It doesn’t get more misleading than that.

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Great piece, Jim! In NYC it starts with nursery schools. It's been like that for decades. No one who can afford to pay for pre-school needs a newspaper or magazine to tell them which nursery school will set their child on a path to Harvard. And don't even get me started on some recent scandals involving some parents whose kids attend private schools in DC

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