To bus or not to bus

To improve the performance of low-income students, Wake County, North Carolina’s largest district, uses busing to integrate its schools by socioeconomic status. One in six students is bused at a cost of $541.56 per student.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg, the second largest district, runs neighborhood schools that serve affluent kids in the suburbs, poor kids in the downtown. Millions of extra dollars go to improve high-poverty schools.

Which system works better? According to the Raleigh News & Observer, both systems are equally unsuccessful.

Only 28 percent of Wake students come from low-income families; more than half are poor in Charlotte-Mecklenburg.  Wake County’s achievement gap between whites and blacks and between low-income and middle-class students is wide.  So is Charlotte’s achievement gap. The numbers are very similar.

Some Wake County parents want to end busing and switch to the Charlotte system.

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  1. you mean changing what color the kid sitting next to you is doesn’t change your performance in school? how odd!

    I have a thesis. I’m waiting for any data that shows it’s wrong, because every datapoint to date fits the theory. It is:

    The majority of chools don’t teach kids anything. Some parents at these schools teach their kids, by themselves or through tutors. These parents are statistically, the better off ones, with higher IQs, higher SES, and who already have the ability to read, write and do arithmetic. The rest don’t get taught anywhere.

    KIPP schools, DCP, some other charters, some parochial and private schools might actually teach kids. But the rest?

  2. Money doesn’t matter.

    The most important factors in learning are :

    1) The desire of the student
    2) The effort of the student
    3) the involvement of the parent.

    Control for these three factors and anyone can learn anywhere in any socia-economic status, regardless of the proficency of the teacher.

  3. gahrie – Direct Instruction managed to achieve a significant improvement in educational outcomes by changing the school, not the students (see It may be that with those three factors any kid can learn despite their teachers, but those three factors are clearly not necessary conditions for learning.

  4. Tracy W. –

    I’ll except your premise for the sake of argument. (and later argue that DI as described deals with my #2)

    As described at your link, DI clearly violates California law. Tracking (or homogeneous grouping) is specifically prohibited.

    However let me also state that I agree with the methods described and would support them 100%.

  5. Gahrie – I think DI not merely deals with the effort of the student, it also increases learning because of how well it presents the material in question – with its focus on unambiguous and concise presentation, only presuming prior knowledge if the knowledge had been tested for and/or taught, and on things like practice and using previously-taught material in learning new material, and because DI provides good feedback to the learner.

    As for whether DI is forbidden by Californian law, I am not a lawyer but I suspect that might depend on the details. DI groups students by where they are in the curriculum as it is, and how much repetition they need. Students can be regrouped as necessary, eg if they miss a few weeks of school, say because of illness, they are put back into a lesson near where they left, not where their former-group members are now up to, and can be in different groups for different subjects, and I understand often are. Furthermore, the grouping happens within a class, with the teacher classically spending the direct lesson time working with each small group of about 6-7 students in turn while another adult looks after the remainder of the class. This is quite different to grouping kids for whole years for every subject based on aptitude tests, which is what traditional tracking was about.

  6. Gahri, For the three factors you mentioned above to work for anyone to learn anywhere in any socia-economic status, regardless of the proficiency of the teachers you must have availability of resources. In most schools in Africa 3 or 4 students share a TEXT book. Teachers are very frustrated by the broken system. Children do not have any books to read away from schools. The learning support system must be strong. So if books (resources) are still a luxury then quality of learning is affected regardless of the desire to learn and effort of student.

  7. Tracking (i.e., an assignment to a permanent track) is prohibited by Supreme Court precedent (Hobson and Marshall); however, flexible grouping by ability is not, in fact, it is preferred. DI doesn’t track, it groups flexibly by ability.

  8. GoogleMaster says:

    Googling Ken’s references, I found Hobson v. Hansen (1967, 1969) and Marshall v. Georgia (1984, 1985). There is a brief description of those cases here.

    There is a long discussion (paper? thesis?) with references here. Some parts of this discussion make me want to throw a book at the screen, but at least the page brings up many of the topics and challenges that are mentioned here and elsewhere in the edublogospere.

  9. “Education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world”- Nelson Mandela

    Read our story and learn more about how lack of educational resources affect children’s lives in Africa despite their quest for knowledge.


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