What a difference a few miles makes… Stanford data shows sharp division between educational outcomes across Washtenaw County following race and class lines

This past April, folks at the New York Times, using data collected by the Center for Education Policy Analysis at Stanford, created an online tool allowing users to explore the correlation between money, race and academic success across America’s school districts. Following are two screen captures. The first shows where the Ann Arbor school district falls on a graph where the X axis reflects the socioeconomic status of parents, with poorer communities on the left and wealthier ones on the right, and the y axis shows how far either ahead or behind children in that community are relative to their peers based on the results of standardized math and reading tests. As you can see, in Ann Arbor, which is significantly more affluent, the children test at 1.8 grade levels above average. Meanwhile, in Ypsilanti, just a few miles to the east, the children test at 1.3 grade levels below average. And, the disparity when it comes to race and socioeconomic status, as you might expect given the fact that we live in the eights most economically segregated region in the entire United States, is significant.



It’s worth noting that in Ann Arbor schools, which, according to this Stanford research, are 56% white, 24% asian, 14% black and 6% hispanic, the median family income is $96,000 a year. In Ypsilanti, however, where the school population is 60% black, 28% white, 6% hispanic and 6% asian, the median family income is only $37,000.

You can draw your own conclusions as to what all of this means. All I ask is that, before doing so, your read through our most recent discussion concerning the various factors at play between our two districts, which have been pitted against one another by a state that has proven again and again that it has no interest in either educating its poor, or maintaining a strong public education infrastructure.

Following, by way of background, is a clip from the New Your Times piece noted above.

…The new analysis surveys data from about 200 million standardized math and reading tests given to third through eighth graders in every state between 2009 and 2012. Although different states administer different exams, Mr. Reardon and his team were able to compare the state results with scores on federal tests known as the National Assessment of Educational Progress in order to develop a consistent scale by which to compare districts.

Mr. Reardon said the analysis should not be used to rank districts or schools. Test scores reflect not just the quality of schools or their teachers, but all kinds of other factors in children’s lives, including their home environment; whether they attended a good preschool; traumas they have experienced; and whether their parents read to them at night or hire tutors.

What emerges clearly in the data is the extent to which race and class are inextricably linked, and how that connection is exacerbated in school settings.

Not only are black and Hispanic children more likely to grow up in poor families, but middle-class black and Hispanic children are also much more likely than poor white children to live in neighborhoods and attend schools with high concentrations of poor students.

These schools can face a myriad of challenges. They tend to have more difficulty recruiting and keeping the most skilled teachers, and classes are more likely to be disrupted by violent incidents or the emotional fallout from violence in the neighborhood. These schools often offer fewer high-level classes such as Advanced Placement courses, and the parents have fewer resources to raise extra money that can provide enhanced arts programs and facilities.

“If a school is in a neighborhood that is highly segregated serving students of color and under-resourced, that is going to have a devastating impact on those who are experiencing a crisis,” said Thena Robinson Mock, project director of the Ending the Schoolhouse to Jailhouse Track program sponsored by the Advancement Project, a civil rights group. “But the others who may not be suffering that crisis at home are also going to suffer from not having enough resources or high-quality teachers. So it will impact the entire school community if those factors are at play”…

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  1. R. Thomas
    Posted September 13, 2016 at 7:18 am | Permalink

    The problem seems intractable. All we can hope for is to get our kids through it. It’s like we’re running through a building as a wrecking ball swings through it. No one can focus on stopping the wrecking ball. All we can focus on is getting our kids out alive.

  2. M
    Posted September 13, 2016 at 7:35 am | Permalink

    I’m sure some will say it’s the fault not of the system but of black families, who don’t value education. These people will say that, if black parents cared, they’d work harder, earn more, and move to Ann Arbor. These people will also defend the fact that the Ann Arbor district is better funded, as children there actually value education and contribute more to society. Well, with all due respect, fuck them. These are kids that we’re talking about, and every one of them deserves an opportunity to learn, discover what they’re good at, and thrive, even if their parents don’t give a fuck. That’s what America is supposed to be about. We’re supposed to be all about a level playing field. It doesn’t exit though. Most kids who aren’t born to well off parents start out behind and never catch up.

  3. EOS
    Posted September 13, 2016 at 8:03 am | Permalink

    If you live in Ypsi and want your kids to get a good education, enroll them in South Arbor. Much better outcomes than Ann Arbor Schools. It’s in the Township and the AAATA buses go there. But you must be willing to participate and stay engaged.


    It’s not about race, although it is correlated with race. It’s about kids being born to young, poorly educated mothers who don’t marry the fathers. The number one cause of poverty is single parenthood. Don’t have unprotected sex until you are in a financially stable marriage.

  4. Frosted Flakes
    Posted September 13, 2016 at 8:09 am | Permalink

    Ann Arbor schools are not 1% Black and 4% Asian.

  5. site admin
    Posted September 13, 2016 at 8:18 am | Permalink

    FF, maybe they’re referring to the general population and not the school population, but those are the numbers as shared by the NYT.

  6. stupid hick
    Posted September 13, 2016 at 8:39 am | Permalink

    Does anyone know how the State of Michigan ranks schools to decide which are most effective and which are failing? Are their measurements of academic outcomes normalized on socio-economic status of the students’ families, or dollars spent, or both? My guess is neither, but I’m cynical. But isn’t it important to take into account what goes in, to judge the success of what comes out? What I’d like to know is which are the schools in the southernmost south east corner of the graphs above.

  7. Martin
    Posted September 13, 2016 at 8:43 am | Permalink

    The demographics information about Ann Arbor school seems wrong. I would be shocked if the school system is truly 93% white. That seems way too high. I heard that King elementary has 50% Asian students in ann arbor. It can’t be the only school with such diversity. Growing up on the Northside we had students from 100+ country represented at the school. I realize gentrification is happening and the diversity would take a hit, but walking around town that is not the impression I get. As for Money and class, that all makes sense.

  8. Dan
    Posted September 13, 2016 at 8:46 am | Permalink


    South Arbor is in York Township, by US23 and Willis Rd.

    You are probably thinking of East Arbor Charter, which is in the township

  9. site admin
    Posted September 13, 2016 at 9:00 am | Permalink

    We got the numbers wrong. Sorry, folks. Changing them now.

  10. Lynne
    Posted September 13, 2016 at 9:01 am | Permalink

    LOL. What cracks me up about the notion that not getting married leads to poverty which leads to bad outcomes is that it almost always comes from the sort of people who would deny women their reproductive rights. They defund planned parenthood which makes birth control harder to get. They oppose abortions. They are “tough on crime” to the point where whole generations have been in prison more than they ever should have been. GAWD it burns me up. The problem is systemic so the solution needs to be too.

    We need to rework our system but unfortunately the resistance is huge. People seldom willingly give up privilege so it must be taken from them by force (although fwiw, the force I am thinking about is political and not violent).

    We need to accept that it isnt just the schools that must change if we are going to make sure every child has a path to success. We need to encourage single moms to form partnerships with each other to share food, rent, etc and otherwise give themselves the financial benefits of marriage without necessarily needing a man. We need to improve our social welfare programs too because the true cause of poverty is a lack of money and if we can take money away from the richer people and give it to the poorer people, it could go a long way and has been done successfully in many countries. Poverty leads to instability which actually can lead to different brain structure. We need to take a long view of the problem and work on fixing the poverty in our communities,

    Unfortunately we are in a place where some people are so racist that they feel that the current system is fair and any attempts to correct it are racist against white people *rolls eyes*. And yes, fuck them.

  11. site admin
    Posted September 13, 2016 at 9:08 am | Permalink

    Ann Arbor schools, according to this Stanford research, are 56% white, 24% asian, 14% black and 6% hispanic, and the median family income is $96,000 a year.

    [Unfortunately, if you don’t pass your cursor over the bubble just right, you get the data from Morton, Ill under “Ann Arbor”.]

  12. Dan
    Posted September 13, 2016 at 9:08 am | Permalink

    which countries were successful in taking away money from rich people and giving it to poor people?

  13. Anonymous
    Posted September 13, 2016 at 9:24 am | Permalink

    Single parenthood is not the number one cause of poverty.

    Copying and pasting over from this article….

    But even if Washington got rid of all its dumb and ineffective policies to promote marriage and implemented a number of smart ones to do so, it might all be for naught. Some researchers think that marriage — or a lack thereof — is not the real problem facing poor parents; being poor is. “It isn’t that having a lasting and successful marriage is a cure for living in poverty,” says Kristi Williams of Ohio State University. “Living in poverty is a barrier to having a lasting and successful marriage.”

    To understand why, it is worth looking at the economic fortunes of the poor in isolation — marriage rates and childbearing out of wedlock aside. Globalization, the decline of labor unions, technological change and other tidal economic forces have battered the poor, with years of economic growth failing to lift their prospects. These forces have inevitably affected young people’s choices, researchers think.

    In an economy that offers so little promise to those at the bottom, family planning in the name of upward mobility doesn’t make much sense. “Engaging in family formation by accident rather than by design, you get a story of low-opportunity costs,” says Kathryn Edin, the poverty researcher at Johns Hopkins. “We’ve created the situation where pregnancy is not the worst thing that can happen to you. It can be seen as a path to redemption in an otherwise violent, unpredictable, hopeless world.”

    Similar forces might also spur some young couples not to get married, even if they want to. Many poor women opt not to marry the poor men in their lives, for instance, to avoid bringing more economic chaos into their homes. And the poor women who do marry tend to have unstable marriages — often to ill effect. One study, for instance, found that single mothers who married and later divorced were worse off economically than those who did not marry at all. “These women revere marriage, they want to get married,” Williams says. “They aren’t making an irrational choice not to marry.”

  14. Taco Farts
    Posted September 13, 2016 at 10:51 am | Permalink

    While anonymous’ post dabbles in it, it’s worth stating specifically: being poor is the number one cause of poverty. If you’re born in poverty, you are starting 26.1 miles behind those who are born well off. And the race is the 100 meter dash.

  15. Lynne
    Posted September 13, 2016 at 10:59 am | Permalink

    Dan, the USA if you want to get into it. A lot of our success has come from socialism in the form of public schools, a safety net, public safety regulation, and a socialized military to protect us. The USA’s best programs involve progressive taxation. Our problem is that we haven’t done enough. Look at Europe for better examples, especially the Scandinavian countries. Even Canada is working on this and is experimenting in a limited way with a universal basic income. One thing is for sure, progressive taxation where the rich are charged a higher rate, is something proven to work in terms of education, poverty, etc.

    That it is also possible for a nation become successful by enslaving people and building a nation on the backs of their labor is not relevant anymore because the nature of labor has changed and hopefully people’s morals as well. I mean, that actually is a sign of progress I guess that even the worst racists no longer advocate for slavery (that is unless they can call it something else like ‘prison labor’)

    In a weird way, I fear that attempts to hold on to privilege is what is going to really make our country decline. How long can the privileged hoard all of the resources if the voting majority decides to finally have the political revolution Sanders was talking about? We will have good schools then!

  16. EOS
    Posted September 13, 2016 at 11:06 am | Permalink


    Look at Fig. 7

    In the U.S., a child is 4 times more likely to be raised in poverty if they live with a single mother rather than a mother and father. And Taco Farts is right too. The poor single Mom’s were likely poor to begin with. Having a baby out of wedlock gets them a place of their own, with WIC stamps, food stamps, and more money than they ever had before. But the next generation is doomed to fail in a similar manner.

    Dan, you are right. I confused South Arbor with East Arbor. My mistake. South Arbor is significantly better than East Arbor. But East Arbor is still significantly better than YCS, as is just about every school district.

  17. Lynne
    Posted September 13, 2016 at 11:33 am | Permalink

    EOS, you clearly are not familiar with the welfare system if you think that people have babies in order to get a place of their own with more money than they ever had before. Still, it is true that having a baby does open up some welfare benefits but those are completely outweighed (by a lot too) by the costs of keeping a baby fed and housed. I mean, are you really suggesting that having a baby out of wedlock is a financial disaster *and* something people have a financial incentive to undertake. I mean, really?!? That doesn’t make any sense at all. Pick one. It can’t be both.

    As it happens though, as I mentioned before, the financial benefits of marriage can be had by the single as long as they are willing to share resources.

  18. John Galt
    Posted September 13, 2016 at 11:49 am | Permalink

    As EOS has said so eloquently on this site before, black people weren’t as intelligently designed by God as the rest of us. While they are great at dancing and lifting heavy things, they just do not have what it takes to succeed in the world of letters and numbers. This is why it’s unfair to keep them in schools where they’re unhappy. We should allow them to work the fields, getting fresh air and exercise. I hear cotton plantations are nice.

  19. EOS
    Posted September 13, 2016 at 11:52 am | Permalink

    You obviously don’t know any young women who have aged out of the Foster Care system. On their 18th birthday, they get dumped at a homeless shelter and getting pregnant substantially improves their situation. They are not looking at long term outcomes, merely trying to survive tomorrow.

  20. EOS
    Posted September 13, 2016 at 11:53 am | Permalink

    So John Galt is Peter?

  21. Lynne
    Posted September 13, 2016 at 12:11 pm | Permalink

    It is true that I have only known a few people who have aged out of the foster system and none without any support. However, I am aware that is a problem. I suppose since benefits are available for a few years, and because 18 year olds generally don’t have an awareness of how expensive babies can be and aren’t especially good at looking beyond the next few years, it may be possible in that very limited situation for young women. Still, if that is a problem the solution is obvious. A guaranteed minimum income available to all regardless of if they have children would both be helpful and provide a disincentive for having children (which we probably should start looking into anyways just for environmental reasons).

    Sometimes solutions are simple. The solution to poverty = give poor people money. FWIW, this is actually about the one area where I agree with libertarian economists. If we had a basic or guaranteed minimum income that replaced other programs, it might be a way to reduce the size of government without harming those at the bottom.

  22. Dan
    Posted September 13, 2016 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

    what would be an acceptable amount of money to give everyone each month, Lynne?

  23. Lynne
    Posted September 13, 2016 at 3:34 pm | Permalink

    I dont know. It depends on if it is going to replace all other programs or not. If we dont replace all the current programs and keep things like food stamps, medicaid, and subsidized housing, the current SSI benefit would be sufficient. I think that is around $900/month. I was really hoping the Swiss were going to adopt this at a much higher rate because it would have been interesting to see how it would work then.

    Canada is running some experiments with this but I dont know the dollar amount they are handing out. So far though, similar experiments in other countries have been very positive.

  24. Lynne
    Posted September 13, 2016 at 3:38 pm | Permalink

    We can also look at Alaska. They give everyone checks but not high enough to live off of. Still, I imagine it has been a posiyive in term of poverty there, even with the higher cost of living

  25. Posted September 13, 2016 at 6:48 pm | Permalink

    Clearly, Ypsilanti is not as moral as Ann Arbor.

  26. Frosted Flakes
    Posted September 13, 2016 at 8:00 pm | Permalink

    It appears that the 7 worst performing schools on this chart are almost entirely made up of Native American students.

  27. Dan
    Posted September 14, 2016 at 8:49 am | Permalink

    Just to be clear, Lynne, you are suggesting $900 per person on top of the other social safety net programs?

    Right now, the US spends about $700 per person per month on all social safety net programs (social security, housing, health care, food, etc). Normally these “Basic income” proposals take the amount currently spent and use that as what would be handed out to each person per month. So a family of 4 would get about $2800/month to pay for housing, health care, and food as a bare minimum. I have a feeling that you dont think everyone should be given that money though

  28. Lynne
    Posted September 14, 2016 at 11:06 am | Permalink

    There are a lot of different ways to approach this. One is a Basic Income where you would actually give some amount of money to everyone. I.e. everyone gets a check every month but then additional income is taxed so that at some point most people are paying more in taxes than they are getting every month. This is the system I favor but know that it is not something our nation is ready for. Still, if conservative Alaska can make this kind of thing work, maybe there is hope!

    The other way to do this is a Guaranteed Minimum Income and that is something where you set some kind of income floor (say $2800/mo) and then just pay people the difference. So if you had a family of four and the working members of the family earned $1200/month (aprox 40hrs per week at minimum wage) they would get a check every month for $1600/month but that would be it. They would have to use that for everything including health insurance. i.e. no other public assistance would be available. This could be fairly easy to put in place with an expansion of the EITC.

    I think the best way to start to accomplish this might actually be to go at it from both ends of the age range in our country. We could expand social security by removing the cap on social security taxes and lowering the full retirement age while perhaps removing incentives that get people to delay claiming their benefit. At the same time we could not only make tuition free for young people at colleges, we could give them a stipend to cover their living expenses while they are in school.

    Perhaps for the middle, since the idea of paying the unemployed creates great fits in people who seem to think that the only reason people don’t have jobs is that they don’t want them, a program could be put in place where the government guarantees employment? I recall reading about programs like that that have been very successful. Basically people show up for day labor and are sent out doing things like picking up litter and planting flowers and then they are paid at the end of the day. Still, fwiw, if we are getting older people and younger people out of the labor market, wages should rise and there should be more jobs available for those who want to work.

    In the context of this discussion, this kind of social welfare program would be good for education because stability in the home is very important and we know that having an income does more for stability than just about anything else. It might be a generation before the full results are seen though and that is a problem in that most people tend to take a short term view of things. Still, it will be interesting to see how things go in Canada. I hope they are measuring educational skill levels as part of their experiment.

  29. anonanimal
    Posted September 14, 2016 at 12:45 pm | Permalink

    So is EOS a reference to the camera canon eos? so eos is a local photgrapher?

  30. EOS
    Posted September 14, 2016 at 1:50 pm | Permalink

    Yes, I’m a local photographer who likes to wear organic lip balm also.

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