22.6.06

SCHOOL CHOICE COMES BUNDLED WITH HOUSING CHOICE. Blogs for Industry comments on the disappearance of "middle-class neighborhoods" (as perceived by the drive-by media). The linked article includes this instructive quote.
"Dollars trump race. Many [minority families] choose not to live around poor people."
It closes with
Urban planners complain that exurbs such as Carmel are bleeding cities of the middle class. But [suburban Indianapolis resident] Jim Russell said he and his wife have made "the logical choice" by moving to a upper-income neighborhood that is safe, comfortable and better for their growing family.
Does such a decision come as a surprise as long as the common schools are more interested in hiring teachers with the right dispositions rather than socializing their charges into the ways of the upper-middle class? Professor Hu connects the article on residential self-segregation with an observation by Professor Mankiw.
You should want your kids to be in a class with (1) high-achieving kids and (2) low variance in achievement. And (3) you should care more if you have a smart kid.
(But if there's a preponderance of high-achieving kids, as (1) and (2) suggest, will there be grade inflation?)

Blogs for Industry suggests there might be a tension between what he calls "between-school tracking" (parents selecting neighborhoods on the basis of the test scores) and "within-school tracking" (grouping of students by ability, or not, at the discretion of the administration).
I would expect that rational behavior by parents would lead them to drive interschool tracking by moving to areas perceived to have better schools, but once there, since the middle and low achievers will always outnumber the high achievers within a school, I'd expect the majority of parents to oppose tracking. But effect 3 might mean that the parents whose kids would benefit most from tracking are likely to be more involved in school politics.
By definition, any population has to have an average performance level. But self-selection into neighborhoods might also mean that the average performance level is high relative to a state or national average (that's what the newspaper column suggests) and a majority of the parents will favor tracking because relatively few kids will be shunted onto the slow track. There is a good dissertation or two in here...

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