Guest Post about the Correlation between Average Family Income and Average Proficiency Scores

I am reprinting a post by Alan Assarsson on the connection between family income and proficiency on standardized tests like the DC-CAS.



“I performed a coarse (first cut) analysis of a segment of the DCPS data by comparing one data point (2010 Elementary School Math Proficiency by Ward), to Family Income (2000 U.S. Census data by Ward).  For a reference example, you can find the economic data for Ward 3 here:


“This data set is shown in the following format:
“( Ward #;  % Proficient;  Family Income in $1,000’s )

“Ward 1;  49.5%;  $45K
“Ward 2;  61.4%;  $85K
“Ward 3;  83.4%;  $118K
“Ward 4;  50.9%;  $72K
“Ward 5;  38.0%;  $50K
“Ward 6;  41.8%;  $53K
“Ward 7;  34.5%;  $45K
“Ward 8;  27.0%;  $36K

{I, GFB, tookthe trouble to copy the graph he made. here it is:

The Graphic Data Analysis shows an almost “straight line” correlation between academic achievement (as measured by % Proficient) and Mean Family Income (of the Ward that the tested student’s school resides in).  The one data point that is not directly on this “straight line” represents Ward One, which is the smallest, highest density, and the most diverse ethnic population in the city.  I do not believe this invalidates the clear pattern shown by this data.  Do it for yourself for all the data points in the DCPS dataset it provided and you will see the same correlation.

“It is time to ask ourselves, or the Chancellor, the following questions:

“1.  Do you believe the neighborhood where a school resides is a prominent predictor of the academic achievement of its students?

“2.  Do you believe that if you transferred the most proven and successful “human capital” (teachers) to the poorest neighborhood schools that it would dramatically change this demonstrated correlation between neighborhood and academic achievement? And if so, why does the Chancellor refuse to transfer these great teachers?

“3.  And, do you believe that the Achievement Gap can be best addressed by a school reform policy that “seeks to increase the identity of Neighborhood Schools” while the socio-economic (SES) boundaries are so often contiguous with our school boundaries?

“We know what the Chancellor has said, but we can’t excuse ourselves if we don’t demand that she be made accountable to the most basic evidence that strongly suggests her core philosophy of education reform is bankrupt.


“Allan G. Assarsson”

Published in: on August 28, 2010 at 9:00 pm  Comments (11)  

The URI to TrackBack this entry is:

RSS feed for comments on this post.

11 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Larry Ferlazzo and Pernille Ripp, Joe Bower. Joe Bower said: Correlection between Average Family Income and Average Proficiency Scores […]


  2. […] Guest Post about the Correlection between Average Family Income … […]


  3. I asked Miss Rhee a question along the line of point 2.
    Dear Miss Rhee,
    I am wondering if there are plans to move
    highly effective teachers to different
    classrooms or even different schools?
    For example, say school x has two HE 4th
    grade teachers, but no HE 3rd. Rather than
    waiting to see if a new person works out, one of
    those 4th grade HE would be placed in 3rd.
    Or, take a teacher(s) from one of the schools
    with high DC-CAS scores and place him(them)
    into a school with low DC-CAS scores.

    Any plans along those lines?

    She responded:
    We have incentives for them to move to high need schools but obviously it’s their choice to make.



  4. This is a great post with some questions that really get at the heart of everything that’s wrong with our current system. Really nicely put.


  5. I worked on this with my dad. I am doing a science project for seventh grade this year that will be about the Statistics of Schools and Social Science. My dad and I think that science can help the DC schools get better, and we will try to show what works and what doesn’t work.

    Anders Assarsson
    Washington, DC


    • Good for you, Anders!
      Facts are stubborn things.
      JM Keynes apparently once said to a critic, “When the facts change, I change my opinion. What do you do, sir?”
      I think that Michelle Rhee is a ‘true believer’ who will never change her opinion.


  6. Here a solution, along the lines of Edlharris’, that I suggested almost a year ago as a wapo comment:

    Here’s a SIMPLE, INEXPENSIVE EXPERIMENT that Rhee could have started two years ago:

    Move the highest performing teachers in the highest-performing schools to one of the lowest performing schools and see how student achievement is affected there. As an incentive to move, guarantee the participating teachers that they will not be penalized if they are not as successful in their new positions. Give them the option to return to their original school for the next school year.

    Study the teachers and students closely and compare the students’ standardized test scores with other comparable students and the teachers’ former students.

    By now we’d have a lot of useful data about the effect of teacher quality on students. But we don’t. Rhee didn’t even think to do such an experiment. She just wants to fire teachers and hire new ones without any knowledge that they will be better.



  7. We might have some data from a small version of that experiment already.

    Didn’t the Janney principal and a number of Janney teachers head over to Webb-Wheatley two years ago? Have scores improved dramatically?


  8. Hey Dad,

    I am very impressed with the blog. It looks very nice and you’ve got a lively audience of folks commenting on your stuff… oh, right, and interesting stuff to say too.




  9. […] This chart pretty clearly illustrates the correlation between student performance and socio-economic status: […]


  10. The critical problem with the teacher-reassignment scheme is that most any teacher in a “good school” will not be up for the transfer.
    Further, the hapless, idiotically management of the WTU, and most of its members voting on this issue, will oppose the scheme.

    An alternative answer is NOT to hire back and reassigned the teachers let go in the past two years for reasons of budget, Impact score, licensing, etc. Most of them, according to teachers and administrators who would know, are not suited to teach in the weakest schools.

    Further, a Mayor Gray and whoever the lucky new supt. is will never have the mastery of District and DCPS politics to pull this off. In concept, it seems that it might work. But it also might prove that quality teachers do not make as big a difference as was thought. My personal view is that this is binary. The weak teachers in, say Wards 7 and 8, are showing no commitment, lack of caring, incompetent classroom management, and have spotty attendance and PD records. Just reversing those sorry attributes would be enough to gain improvement. Teaching skills–the academic ones–may make little difference. Make sense?


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: