Many suburbanites on this blog contend that they would never send their children to city of Atlanta or DeKalb schools and that’s why they now live in Forsyth or Cobb.
Here is an interesting response to that common assertion from a reader who looked at test data that suggests the state’s highest achieving white students are in metro systems, including Atlanta , Decatur, Marietta and DeKalb.
Take a look at this reader’s research:
I have been crunching some numbers from the state DOE report cards and thought I might share with you some interesting results.
In response to the constant attacks on the quality of schooling offered by APS in particular and urban public schools in general, I have often read or heard comments (many by your blog commenters) that they would never consider sending their own children to Atlanta schools and/or that they have moved out of the city to the suburbs rather than do so.
What continues to interest me, particularly when addressing the subject of “white flight” from Atlanta and certain other urban systems, is how little evidentiary basis there is to back up most of these decisions, particularly when made by middle or upper-middle class white parents.
So I decided to try to address the question: “Based on available data, which Georgia school districts provide the best educational results for white students?”
I assumed, for purposes of this exercise, that SAT scores provide the best proxy available for “educational end product.” (For obvious reasons, I decided not to use CRCT scores or graduation rates, which many would contend are highly suspect).
If white flight out of Atlanta schools were to make rational sense, would not one expect that SAT scores for white students in suburban systems would greatly outstrip their Atlanta counterparts who are “left behind” in such a failed system? [Caveat: The state web site makes it impossible to show all individual district subgroup SAT scores at one time, so I have had to go district-by-district and have not looked at every district in the state, but am prepared to do so if you find this topic interesting enough to write about. Also, the DOE website does not provide a breakdown by family income level, so comparisons of scores on that basis cannot be done.]
My preliminary review shows as follows:
In 2008-09 (the most recent data included at the state website), the Georgia system with the highest average SAT scores (math and verbal) for its white students appears to be Decatur City (1203); second is Atlanta City (1165); third is Marietta City (1150); and fourth is DeKalb County (1145).
For 2007-08, the top four appear to have been (1) Atlanta (1174); (2) Decatur (1166); (3) DeKalb (1136); and (4) Fulton County (1108). The statewide SAT average for all white students was 1042 in 2008-09 and 1040 in 2007-08
I know from prior discussions with many white parents (especially those whose children do not attend APS schools) that these results will strike some as unbelievable — that white students in Atlanta, Decatur and DeKalb public schools perform better on SATs than white students in Fulton, Cobb, Gwinnett, Cherokee, Fayette, Forsyth and possibly (probably?) every other system in the state of Georgia!
Now, this data certainly do not prove that APS, Decatur and DeKalb are doing a “better job” or providing a “better education” to their white students than every other district in the state — far from it. What is equally or more likely is that other critical demographic factors at play (especially parent education and income levels) are more favorable for white students in those districts than in most others.
Similarly, demographic factors (especially high poverty rates) among its black students probably skews the SAT scores for those APS and DeKalb students in the opposite direction.
What the data do suggest, however, is that middle class parents (white or minority) who conclude – based only on a school’s or a system’s overall test scores – that they should buy their houses in another district or send their kids to private schools rather than APS (or DeKalb or Decatur) may only be fooling themselves about the perceived benefits for their own children.
I do believe that there are some gross misconceptions out there about how well or poorly some systems (especially APS) are doing in educating students, and that your column would be a great place to show that at least some of those misconceptions are not supported by any data.
By Maureen Downey, AJC Get Schooled blog