Monday, May 02, 2016

America's Unequal Schools

In the USA if you want a good education it seems that the most important thing you can do is make sure that you are born into a well-off family and that you live in an affluent neighborhood.

A few week's ago NPR released an interactive map which visualizes how much each school district in the USA spends on school funding. Why America's Schools Have A Money Problem colors each school district based on the level of school spending in the district per student.

The map shows that local funding is usually dependent on the levels of local property taxes. If a district has a number of successful businesses contributing a lot of money through property taxes then the school district is more likely to have higher levels of school spending per student. In essence schools in affluent areas are likely to be much better funded that schools in less-affluent areas.

A nice complement to this map is the Memphis Teacher Residency's EdGap map. The EdGap map visualizes school SAT and ACT scores on top of the median household income in the school neighborhood. The main take home point from this map seems to be that just about anywhere you look on the map the school's with the worst SAT and ACT scores are mostly in the poorest neighborhoods and the school's with the best results are usually in the richest neighborhoods.

If you are unfortunate enough not to be born to a rich family in an affluent neighborhood then you might not learn that the American Dream promises "opportunity for each according to ability or achievement ... a dream of social order in which each man and each woman shall be able to attain to the fullest stature of which they are innately capable, and be recognized by others for what they are, regardless of the fortuitous circumstances of birth or position." (James Truslow Adams, Epic of America, 1931)
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