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News Report Claims Students’ Ability to Learn Depends on Their Ride to School

An article in today’s News and Observer makes the spurious claim that “new data” shows Wake County School’s diversity policy harmed the education of minority students.  This claim is based on data claiming that black students with longer bus rides have lower rates of academic proficiency.  Of course, it should be no surprise that the data referred to is an attempt to support this claim since it was formulated for the Wake Board’s response to the NAACP’s Title VI complaint.

What is surprising is that the report does such a poor job of supporting this claim and any trends that can be discerned are far less clear than the article suggests.  As travel distances increased from <1 mile to 2.1-3 miles, academic proficiency increased from 53.1% to 57.3%.  Does this mean that 2.1-3 miles is the magical bus ride length that leads to greatest proficiency?  Students who were bused 10 miles had a 49.5% proficiency rate while students who were bused 7 miles had a 40% rate, so is 10 miles better for academic performance than 7?

Since poverty is linked to lower academic achievement, it is easy to see how students who were bused to different schools for socioeconomic integration could attain lower rates of academic achievement than their middle-class peers who were not.  The only thing this “new data” shows is that there was in fact a socioeconomic diversity policy and that poor students unfortunately often bore a disproportionate share of the traveling to make the policy work.  That’s not exactly breaking news.

3 Comments


  1. stan norwalk

    April 2, 2011 at 7:23 pm

    If distance bussed was the critical factor, then the base load students in magnet schools, most of whom can walk to school, should outshine all other groups..The fact that they don’t is widely attacked by the board majority and its supporters.

    The fact is that it doesn’t matter whether the bus ride is long or short, the anti-public school crowd is going to complain.

    The pervasiveness of low performance by needy students around the nation speak to the difficulty in solving this difficult problem. Although WCPSS is routinely attacked on this basis, its performance with needy children is actually better than other large systems…but WCPSS still needs to do better.

  2. Alex

    April 4, 2011 at 7:28 am

    To call people the ant-public group is a real insult to citizens who are finally beginning to question the lousy results achieved by public schools over the last few decades. Despite spending a trillion dollars a year, we continue to have low graduation rates with poor student achievement, and many countries are moving substantially ahead of us. Despite studying the problem to death, public schools have made remarkably little progress in solving it.

  3. Jack

    April 4, 2011 at 2:18 pm

    Nothing like having an agrarian/industrial oriented school system in a 21st Century society that honors and is upgrading its technology.

    The educatinonal system gives time off for the harvest and teaches how students to work on an assembly line while a student’s real-world experience is high tech that points to the future of the planet.

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