Thursday, July 24, 2014

Race or Class?

The NY Times has an article about Americans' poor math skills: "Why Do Americans Stink at Math?"

In the comments, Steve Sailer, a "conservative race demagogue" quotes essentially the upper half of the table here.  (The table is for Massachusetts, while Sailer quotes figures for the whole of the US.)

The figures are for the mathematics scores on the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) tests.  PISA tests are conducted all around the world.  In 2012, students in Shanghai, China, topped the world with an average score of 613.   Singapore came in second at 573.   The United States scored an average of 481, way down on the list. 

Massachusetts average 514

U.S. average 481

OECD average 494

Female 509

Male 518

White 530

Black 458

Hispanic 446

Asian 569

Percentage of students in enrolled schools
    eligible for free or reduced-price lunch
Less than 10 percent 583

10 to 24.9 percent 514

25 to 49.9 percent 493

50 to 74.9 percent 465

75 percent or more 457

Sailer says, take Asians and Whites and the US is doing quite well, thank you, in students' mathematics achievement.  In the table above, Massachusetts Asian Americans come in third, behind only Shanghai and Singapore.  Massachusetts White Americans come tenth behind only Shanghai (613), Singapore (573), Hong Kong (561), Taipei (560), South Korea (554), Macao (538), Japan (536), Liechtenstein (535) and Switzerland (531).   In this diagnosis there is nothing wrong with American schools or mathematics instruction, it is the presence of Blacks and Hispanics that drags America down.

But take a look at the highlighted part of the table.  The less impoverished students are in the school, the better the average score.  The top tier is second only to Shanghai, and beats Singapore.  The second tier matches Germany (514).  And so on.

We know race is correlated to poverty and lower per capita incomes.  We know that schools of the less well-off are often quite bad.   Viewed in this way, the American mathematics problem is one of economic class, not of race.

Which one is it? You decide.


Who is eligible for Free and Reduced Price School Meals?

Your child can get free or reduced price School Meals:
  • if you are getting TAFDC or SNAP food stamps
  • or if your household meets the income limits. See What are the income limits? below.
    Note: For foster children, use "personal use" income, not the household’s income.

What are the income limits?

Your child is eligible for free school meals if your household's gross income is not greater than 130% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines.
Your child is eligible for reduced price meals if your household’s gross income is between 130% and 185% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines.
For the 2013-2014 school year, the income limits are:

Free and Reduced PriceSchool Meals Programs
Gross Income Limits
(Effective July 1, 2013 to June 30, 2014)
People in Household Free School Meals
130% FPG
Reduced Price Meals
185% FPG
Annual Monthly Annual Monthly
1 $14,937 $1,245 $21,257 $1,772
2 $20,163 $1,681 $28,694 $2,392
3 $25,389 $2,116 $36,131 $3,011
4 $30,615 $2,552 $43,568 $3,631
5 $35,841 $2,987 $51,005 $4,251
6 $41,067 $3,423 $58,442 $4,871
7 $46,293 $3,858 $65,879 $5,490
8 $51,519 $4,294 $73,316 $6,110
Each additional person +$5,226 +$436 +$7,437 +$620

PS: In 2011-12, 35.2% of the Massachusetts student body qualified for free or reduced price lunches (30.4% free lunches, 4.8% reduced price lunches).