Not true that urban schools fail all students: Intown white high school students outperform suburban counterparts.

Jarod Apperson, a Midtown reader, sent me an interesting analysis of Georgia SAT scores, similar to one that I ran a few years ago, showing that white students in metro schools outperform suburban counterparts.  Except he went a bit deeper.

Here is why he compiled the data and what he hopes we learn from it:

Since my analysis has some newer data and focuses on specific schools, people might still be interested in it.  I think the fact that North Atlanta is the No. 3 public school in the state for white high school students could be a strong talking point for APS school chief Erroll B. Davis trying to get more middle-class families to stay in the public education system.

It’s a narrative that’s not heard enough.

To answer your question about how I came to look at this, I became interested in education reform a few years ago when I read a book by Paul Tough called “Whatever it Takes.”  I’ve always felt that excellent public education was the best way to create economic mobility between classes.

Unfortunately, what we’ve seen for years is that schools are as good (or bad) as their inputs. In recent years, a couple of schools have shown capacity to completely alter outcomes and that gets me excited.

And here is his explanation of his chart:

The story of Metro Atlanta’s school quality has followed a consistent beat for the past 40 years. You have no doubt heard that inner-city schools are failing while schools outside the Northern Perimeter (particularly North Fulton, Cobb, and Gwinnett) are excelling. I suspect you will be interested, as I was, to find that data made available by the Governor`s Office does not support this commonly held belief.

Nationwide, there is a significant achievement gap between white/Asian students and their black/Hispanic counterparts. As such, school “quality” measures, without consideration of demographics, can become merely a function of inputs rather than a true measure of a schools’ impact on its students.

One of the less discussed components of President Bush´s controversial No Child Left Behind Act is the requirement that states break out student performance at a demographic level. As a result of the act, a wealth of detailed performance data, including demographics, has become available in recent years.

An analysis of SAT performance for Metro Atlanta´s white, public high school students yields some expected and unexpected results. As you might expect, 16 of the 25 top-performing public high schools are located in North Fulton, Cobb, or Gwinnett.

However, the very top of the list is dominated by schools inside the perimeter. Six of the 7 top performing high schools in Metro Atlanta are located inside the perimeter, with Chamblee Charter, North Atlanta, and Decatur leading the way.

table of Metro-Atlanta performance (Medium)

What this table tells us is that Metro Atlanta´s schools are producing outcomes similar to their inputs. Intown schools have not found a way to dramatically improve outcomes for their disadvantaged students, but their wealthier, white students are doing just fine.

In fact, those white students are outperforming their suburban counterparts.

If you and your family have been considering an in-town move, but fears over school performance have held you back, it´s time to take a second look.

–From Maureen Downey for the AJC Get Schooled blog

NOTE: The data used in this analysis comprises Math and Verbal Scores for the SAT in the years 2009 through 2011. This data was retrieved from the Governor´s Office of Student Achievement on June 2, 2012. Data also including writing scores was not available at a demographically distinct level.

136 comments Add your comment

Poor Boy from Alabama

June 3rd, 2012
6:33 am

The embedded image of individual school results didn’t appear when i loaded the page. The inference from the text of this blog post is that white APS students from high socioeconomic status households do well on the SAT. Is that really a surprise?

APS is trying to recover from a terrible cheating scandal. The board has been through a period of intense turmoil and turnover. Erroll Davis is a stopgap leader with no heir apparent. That combination would not be much of a lure for folks whose children are doing well in Cobb, Gwinnettt, or North Fulton schools.

mike

June 3rd, 2012
7:18 am

This all boils down to parenting in the end. Most white/asian parents are very proactive in their childrens lives. I do not understand why we keep focusing so much on the schools. It is the parenting that is most of the difference.
We have two educators here at our house and they both see which kids come to school well rested and prepared. They also see which parents show up at open house etc…

Jack

June 3rd, 2012
7:45 am

“…boils down to parenting…”. An unalterable truth that keeps on ticking.

puzzling choice

June 3rd, 2012
7:55 am

Success Charter is the antithesis of a community school. They are trying to break apart by using the shared school space of a successful school already established in a community very similar to Va High in Brooklyn. It is highly controversial so why in the heck would you want to place the success of already established working truly public schools along side a charter network, This smacks of a sneaky way to get Success Charters which is looking to expand its NETWORK of charters into Atlanta. I am not a conspiracy theorist but the success of the intown students has absolutely NOTHING to do with Success Charter and I very much question why it is even included into this piece.
Hooray for the Intown schools and it is due to the incredible level of dedication of some very trusting and hard working parents and teachers and school workers/ admins who value education and value community. Celebrate their success and know that it came from these people not from a charter school network with ties to hedge funds and who’s director makes more money than Earl Davis.

bootney farnsworth

June 3rd, 2012
8:04 am

once again we discover water is wet.

two parent children do better than single parent children
children with resources do better than those without
the parts of society which focus on style over substance get neither
there is no substitute for parental involvement in student success.

bootney farnsworth

June 3rd, 2012
8:08 am

it would be an interesting study to see how a one to one view against Gwinnett’s mostly well to do white schools, or private schools like Pius or GAC

crankee-yankee

June 3rd, 2012
8:10 am

I’m not a conspiracy theorist but when one walks & talks like a duck…

ALEC has an agenda…

bootney farnsworth

June 3rd, 2012
8:10 am

@ puzzling

results comparatively, I’ll take the rich hedge fund connected guy over Erroll Davis anytime.
the former gets results, the latter sleeps behind the wheel

Dunwoody Mom

June 3rd, 2012
8:14 am

Please remember that the scores of Chamblee Charter High School also include those of the students in the Magnet program. The magnet program while housed at Chamblee is not part of Chamblee and the scores should be reported separately as should all scores in schools which contain magnet programs. I have spoken to former teachers, parents and grandparents of children in the residenct program at Chamblee (my alma mater) and they are tired of all of the money and resources going to the magnet program. This is OT here, but I will say and have said loudly, that resident students at Chamblee have suffered with the magnet program in the same building. Don’t believe me? Try and get a breakdown of scores resident v magnet.

northatlantateacher

June 3rd, 2012
8:27 am

@SugarHillDawg: That’s not the point of his analysis at all. I’ve taught many wealthy white kids whose parents don’t give one flaming damn about their actual learning, but about getting a grade they feel is appropriate for their social standing. In fact, I had more parents care about actual learning and respect when I taught in a Title I school – and my most supportive parents were Hispanic who spoke little English and grandmothers raising their grandchildren, both black and white. Please no more obviously racist generalizations. It’s tired and counterproductive.

As for the analysis, very interesting and what a breath of fresh air. I’ve suspected that to be true, but never had the time or inclination to do the work to find out.

puzzling choice

June 3rd, 2012
8:27 am

Maureen, I am a pretty faithful reader and intermittent comment writer. I am surprised that this piece that starts off about analysis of white student success intown versus suburban and veers into Success Charter is included here. It sounds like a puff piece for Success Charters which has been written about extensively in other areas- Washington Post, New York Times etc.
This reads as a puff piece for this charter network instead of an examination of what IS working in the intown schools. Instead of examining the aspects that are working and driving conversations around what could be done to bridge divides, eye ball time has been granted to read about this controversial charter that has driven a wedge into some very cohesive neighborhoods. I am surprised.

Bill

June 3rd, 2012
8:29 am

I sure would like to see the table.

Dunwoody Mom

June 3rd, 2012
8:32 am

Suggestion: For those who utlize Twitter, start following Diane Ravitch. Your eyes will be opened with regards to Charters, voucher programs, etc., She has a wonderful piece in Education Week, I believe, about whether Charter Schools ar really public schools. It will really open eyes – unless you are one of those legislators who doesn’t want their eyes opened.

puzzling choice

June 3rd, 2012
8:38 am

@Bootney, when the profits have been wrung through and the ’success’ of the schools is to divide neighborhoods and leave an even greater divide between the haves and the have nots, something is truly broken.
Hedge funds are driving what exactly these days except short sighted self interest? Tumultuous ups and downs is not exactly a recipe for success in a long payoff enterprise that education actually is. Education as monetary investment should not come at the expense of children who need stability and continuation in their path to success. Especially those who don’t have the luxury of two parent family incomes, two parent family oversight and two parent family expectations.

Hmmmmm....

June 3rd, 2012
8:39 am

NorthAtlanta teacher….your rebuke of Sugar Hill Dawg was well warranted. But it begs a different question. Namely, what is the role of the school (and therefore society) in the lives of so many minority students whose families have so little regard in the education and welfare of their kids? Is it the school’s responsibility to be the student’s family?

puzzling choice

June 3rd, 2012
8:47 am

@Dunwoody Mom. I second you on that.
Charters started off as being such a great idea and it has morphed into this cash cow. Teacher churn, TFA replacements every two years and voila, you have a built in cheap work force with very little incentive to actually improve their craft, and hedge fund managers who love the profit margins even of these not for profit charters. The real estate deals, technology for virtual school deals and tax breaks are enough to make investors like even the not for profits.

Dunwoody Mom

June 3rd, 2012
8:51 am

northatlantateacher

June 3rd, 2012
8:59 am

@Hmmmm: I don’t know what the answer is. If I did, I’d write a book, go on Oprah and open my own school.
The same problems tend to exist in poor and wealthy areas, the main difference is public perception. We have kids who are abused, who do not get enough to eat, who are chronically absent, who have horrible home lives. In wealthy suburban areas, it all tends to be swept under the rug very quickly and the “it doesn’t happen here” mentality reigns supreme. Mostly (notice – not all), parents do not want the help of the school – unless it is to further an image of success and perfection, real or otherwise.
I think it’s easy to say poor people don’t value education and wealthy people do – huge generalization. It’s all about image and perception.

Diane is Biased

June 3rd, 2012
9:17 am

Let the charter school bashing begin.

Diane Ravitch is just as blind as those who unilaterally support all charters; she does not discriminate between for-profit charters and not-for-profit charters. Everyone goes into the pot, and they are all bad. I have asked her repeatedly to articulate how, exactly, she would change education, and she has never responded. Bash, bash, bash, with no suggestions in sight. Productive. Because she is, obviously, changing the world by blogging.

@Bootney has it right: water is wet. White people, for whatever reason you’d like to elucidate, have always gotten the better end of the deal. Go on back and read Jonathan Kozol’s “Savage Inequalities” if you need more evidence of that.

(Sorry about the quotes, even though it is a book. Not sure how to italicize.)

Dunwoody Mom

June 3rd, 2012
9:38 am

@diane is Biased…would you care to provide examples of Diane discriminating against not-for-profit charters? Her whole argument deals with charter schools and their incestuous relationships with for-profit companies.

Anonmom

June 3rd, 2012
9:38 am

Lakeside’s, Druid Hills, Dunwoody’s, Chamblee’s and Decatur’s white and asian kids will invariably do well. They are most likely living in fairly expensive, two parent homes and their parents (at least one) probably has a decent, professional job — if its DHHS or LHS, it’s probably as a professor at Emory or Tech or GA State, at the CDC, or as a Doctor, Lawyer or CPA — that’s the community in which these communities are located. The scores, though, are a bit deceptive, as at at least one of these schools, many of the “successful” kids have a battery of tutors who are helping to supplement the daily classwork and the SAT/ACT scores at a pretty high cost to the parents.

Maureen Downey

June 3rd, 2012
9:38 am

@Bill, I added it using a different program. See if can you see it now. Maureen

Just A Grunt

June 3rd, 2012
9:49 am

“Intown schools have not found a way to dramatically improve outcomes for their disadvantaged students, but their wealthier, white students are doing just fine.”

And right there is the logical fallacy, in the argument when trying to excuse away lack luster academic results within the black community. In fact it is down right denial of the the obvious, but somehow it must all come down to money. Immigrants from all over the world come to our country, attend these very same schools and achieve spectacular results. Many of these immigrants have nothing more then the clothes on their backs and enough food in the pantry to make it to tomorrow and yet somehow they manage to win spelling bees, history competitions, and all sorts of other academic honors. It all comes down to priorities and personal values.

If education was truly simply a matter of wealth, Abraham Lincoln would have never been a lawyer or a President. Give up on trying to draw parallels between income and intellect. It is intellectually dishonest.

bootney farnsworth

June 3rd, 2012
9:50 am

@ puzzling

your apparent issues with the free market aside, it’s a simple issue.

the evil hedge fund guy is successful. Erroll Davis is not. more over, he sat on his hands
will GPC spent itself in the biggest debt crisis a single institution has ever had.
and refused to take action against an out of control president despite mountains of
evidence of problems.

corporate success vs cronyism. easy choice for me

valid questions

June 3rd, 2012
9:55 am

It is important to note that are virtually no poor and even lower middle class white families left in DeKalb. It is not surprising that the few white students left in DeKalb do well, they are genetically programmed to do so. There is mounds of research that supports both race and socio-economic level as having a strong correlation to the scores on the SAT.

There are about 500-600 white high school seniors in any given year in DeKalb. Walton High School alone has about 500 white seniors a year.

For comparison purposes, those 500 white seniors at Walton are being compared with a tiny sample at schools like North Atlanta (44 test takers) and Grady (67). Every family I know at NA and Grady have a choice. If the school doesn’t work out, they can make another choice, private, or move. I also know families who live in the Walton district whose kids are in private schools because the school is too competitive for their children.

I am a DeKalb County parent, but most of my closest friends live in the suburbs and I gotta tell you their children are having a far better educational experience than the kids in DeKalb. The number of really weak administrators and teachers are fewer and far between. Their systems, though they have bumps in the road, face none of the challenges that DeKalb and Atlanta do.

As to Chamblee, when Dr. Brown was here, he had the scores broken out for magnet vs non-magnet, and the non-magnet part of Chamblee had among the lowest SAT scores in the county. DSA has admission standards. Riverwood has benefited from an IB magnet (which I think is now not really a magnet) plus an annual infusion of private school kids who enter in 9th grade. I love living close-in, but would we do it again? Probably not.

guest

June 3rd, 2012
9:59 am

Just a grunt,

Well said.

bootney farnsworth

June 3rd, 2012
9:59 am

@ diane/biased

at GPC I see our native born, low income black kids do amazing things daily.

but it is undeniable on the whole, American blacks with a better standard of living
than most of their actually African counterparts with a much worse standard of living
lag well behind in the classroom.

to be fair, however, we must acknowledge anyone willing to undergo the rigors of coming
here is already an A+ person with high motivation and drive. it would almost be a bigger issue if
they didn’t achieve

homeschooler

June 3rd, 2012
10:17 am

I don’t know about Chamblee but the same goes for Wheeler in Cobb. I suspect that those higher scores are coming mainly from the magnet students. Is it just a fluke that the magnet schools in Cobb are all placed in the poor performing schools? I guess not. Frankly I was surprised at how low these scores were for the “good” schools in Cobb. I would have thought that Pope and Walton would have had higher scores.

Maureen Downey

June 3rd, 2012
10:29 am

@Just a Grunt, I saw a study last year about immigrant children and school performance and the decisive factors of how well they fared were whether there was a history of family literacy and education of the parents. Many of those high achieving immigrants are coming from families where the parents attended school and can read in their native language. An example is the custodian of the Gwinnett school where my daughter practiced volleyball. In Vietnam, the man had been a math teacher but never was able to teach here due to language. His son graduated Tech with an engineering degree. His second son was also in college. Often, folks who are driving cabs here had white collar jobs in their homelands.
Maureen

wheelermom

June 3rd, 2012
10:34 am

@homeschooler – I can’t speak for how Chamblee runs their magnet, but Wheeler magnet students ARE considered Wheeler students. Outside of the math and science magnet classes, the other classes like English Lit, History, and electives are all taken with the “unwashed masses,” so to speak.

Of Wheeler’s approximately 2000 students, less than a quarter of them are magnet, and of the 125 accepted freshmen each year, there is some attrition. Additionally, a percentage of those students are districted to Wheeler anyway. I’m not going to deny that having a math and science magnet helps boost our scores, but to say that our scores are only a reflection of the magnet students is inaccurate.

For the record, I speak as the mom of two NON-magnet students – both of my kids got a great education at Wheeler despite the fact they are very much humanities-driven and not science-driven. The school has excellent honors classes and AP choices for magnet and non-magnet alike. Although we draw from some lower-income neighborhoods, we also draw from some half-million-dollar + neighborhoods – and they are adjacent to the same type of neighborhoods that feed into Walton.

Maureen Downey

June 3rd, 2012
10:37 am

@Valid, At one point, Lakeside High led the state in AP courses. It still has many more than most Georgia high schools. So, I am not sure that your comment about suburban schools offering kids far more than DeKalb schools. One of the key factors in school success is teachers, and it remains easier for urban schools to attract teachers. Decatur High can get its pick of teachers because young, smart people want to live in Decatur and Candler Park and Va-Highlands and Midtown. Ditto for Lakeside and Druid Hills; they, too, benefit by having a larger teacher pool than many schools outside the Perimeter and beyond. (I think college grads are willing to accept a 45-minute commute, but not much farther.)
You will not find too many college grads from UGA or Tech or Emory who want to move out of metro Atlanta. That’s why there is a lot focus now on developing home-grown talent in areas that can’t attract young newcomers.
(It also remains true that teacher turnover is higher at private schools.)
Maureen

Hmmmmm....

June 3rd, 2012
10:38 am

@NorthAtlanta Teacher…..so in your opinion, the notion that a good education is only a “white thing”…a belief that is supposedly held by many black people, is false??

Teacher of truth

June 3rd, 2012
10:39 am

It seems that we now have proof that inner city white students to better that suburban white students because of an AJC report! Really! The AJC should really stop selling lies and dreams to its readers! Is North Atlanta really being called an urban school! Really! What about all the social problems of a failed school plan called SLCs! When will the people of Atlanta demand real push back on the topics like education! The AJC has no clue about education !
Question 1: What is the makes the parents of North Atlanta more informed on education than Cobb patents? North Atlanta High school has not made AYP in six years! AJC why has this not being reported in this report!
Recommendations: Leave education alone and cover stories like a cat being caught in a tree!

Ed Johnson

June 3rd, 2012
10:40 am

“Three-year average.” Why Three-Year Average? Why not just Average, or Four-Year Average, or x-Year Average?

Send to edwjohnson@aol.com the data that went into constructing the chart. The data should include the number of test takers per test administration per school.

Anonmom

June 3rd, 2012
10:42 am

Another point to note, we have non-white families and non-asian families at DHHS and at LHS who have kids who are just as successful as the white and asian kids… the difference is that they are from two parent homes with successful, upper middle class parents — they are not the “stero-typical” “inner-city” “bussed” AYP kids in the statistics. These schools would be very “diverse” and multi-cultural without the AYP “mix” that AYP has handed them. With the socio-economics of being “in district” the racial breakdown, I believe, of all the races, would probably be pretty even — it’s when you add in the scores of the AYP transfers, which add in, mostly (and I”m assuming) single-parent, homes, driving an hour or more in each direction, from a different socio-economic bracket, that the scores are more varied. I have friends, black, whose children are at Ivey and near-Ivey schools based mostly on merit who are in-district — because they have the values they instilled in their own kids. They live in-district. The issues are much more “cultural” than “school” based. But, as most of you have figured out by now, I do think if more of the money was put into the classroom and wasn’t being diverted into “pet” projects, I think we’d be much further along….

northatlantateacher

June 3rd, 2012
10:45 am

@Maureen: Is there data available for the number of students tested at each school during this three year period? Also, what about controlling for free and reduced lunch, regardless of race?

northatlantateacher

June 3rd, 2012
10:47 am

@Teacher of truth: With all due respect, AYP is not a measure of anything valuable.

northatlantateacher

June 3rd, 2012
10:54 am

@Hmmm…? I do not understand your point.

Hugh Beaumont.

June 3rd, 2012
10:54 am

” Intown schools have not found a way to dramatically improve outcomes for their disadvantaged students, but their wealthier, white students are doing just fine”.

Please Maureen, I missed the part where they compared parental income between the white and black counterparts at in town schools, so exactly what source are you quoting that says the white students who scored higher had higher family incomes? Or did you just make that part up?

Hmmmmm....

June 3rd, 2012
10:55 am

Well said Just a Grunt….

Being a first generation immigrant from a third world country 35 yrs ago, in my opinion obtaining a good education is almost entirely based on parental involvement and expectations. If little exists, all the money thrown at schools (public vs private, OTP vs ITP) won’t matter

Maureen Downey

June 3rd, 2012
10:56 am

@Hugh, I didn’t write that line — it is part of the analysis by the reader. You can look at the demographics in the state data. (Several of the questions on this thread can be answered by going to the GOSA site and looking at the school report cards, including demographics.)
Maureen

Hugh Beaumont.

June 3rd, 2012
10:58 am

“many of the “successful” kids have a battery of tutors”

Yes Anon, it is called their parents.

Jarod Apperson

June 3rd, 2012
10:59 am

@northatlantateacher: There is data available for the number of students tested on the Governor´s Office of Student Achivement. I am working on a more comprehensive review of performance at all metro schools (including elementary and middle), which will also consider economic advantage/disadvantage.

Michael

June 3rd, 2012
11:03 am

Korean and Japanese kids attend Saturday School as a rule.

Hmmmmm.....

June 3rd, 2012
11:04 am

@NorthAtlantaTeacher, I guess I tipped my hand with my latest comment. But my question to you as an experienced teacher is the supposition that home/parental involvement is THE most influential predictive factor as to whether a child succeeds in school.

a. Do you agree?
b. Do you find that non-white, non-Asian parents have less involvement in their children’s education?

Hugh Beaumont.

June 3rd, 2012
11:06 am

Maureen, actually, it appears Jarod made the statement, so sorry for the snarky remark. And although I do not doubt it is true, if it is not part of the study, why start tossing out assumptions?

Jarod Apperson

June 3rd, 2012
11:06 am

@Hugh: Good comment. The Governor´s Office does not break out economic status by race. However, according to census data, the areas zoned for the high-performing intown schools have significantly higher incomes.

northatlantateacher

June 3rd, 2012
11:15 am

@Jarod: Thanks. Now that it’s summer, I have time to look!

northatlantateacher

June 3rd, 2012
11:18 am

@hmmmm
a. It depends on the quality and motivation of the involvement.
b. I think SES is more predictive than race, but it all depends on the why behind the involvement.

Anonmom

June 3rd, 2012
11:21 am

Hugh Beaumont; no, really, outside tutors — math tutors, science tutors, even some have English and language tutors — but mainly math tutors (retired math teachers are really making a bunch of money). Applerouth and Kaplan and other testing companies are making a bunch of money on SAT and ACT tutoring.. the kids have a lot of outside help that are “flying under the radar screen.”