sociology of education poll

I recently was talking with different folks about school effects. My view is that schools don’t matter for most students, except low SES students. I thought I was in the minority on this point, but I found that my soc of ed buddies tend to believe the same thing. What do the rest of you think? Do most sociologists believe in school effects? Explain your answer!

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Written by fabiorojas

December 10, 2012 at 6:42 pm

Posted in education

7 Responses

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  1. Fabio, are social capital effects included in “school effects”? I can see an argument against the existence of school effects from a purely human capital standpoint, but it’s a tough case to make if networks are included


    Adam M. Kleinbaum

    December 10, 2012 at 7:01 pm

  2. Fabio, Where is the Venkatesh post? Is there some sort of sociological code of omerta that has silenced the sociology blogs on this?



    December 10, 2012 at 7:35 pm

  3. Don’t tempt me, Terry…



    December 10, 2012 at 7:36 pm

  4. Ok, Terry. A more serious response. The NYT article addressed two issues. First, there is the issue of Venkatesh being a renegade sociologist. On that count, I think a lot of us in the blogging world aren’t that interested in that angle. Venkatesh is one of a long line of people who have studied gangs through observation and participation such as Gerald Suttles, Martin Sanchez-Jankowksi, and Phillipe Bourgois. I’m glad that he is doing his research and we actually did a book forum on “Off the Books,” which I enjoyed. But I don’t find it as amazingly unique as the NYT does.

    Second, there was a discussion of Venkatesh’ directorship of a research center at Columbia. All I’ll say is that I wasn’t there and don’t have any first hand experience. If you want to read a blog from a Columbia professor who does have first hand experience and who is in a position to comment, please read this entry from Andrew Gelman’s blog:

    There is no omerta. It’s just a very sensitive issue that is better left to Columbia and its auditors.



    December 10, 2012 at 7:50 pm

  5. I saw AG’s piece on this and, like you, I am only really interested in the second part. So…a “very sensitive issue” that is better left to Romney-esque “quiet rooms,” huh? You are aware that Columbia concluded the audit some time ago (i.e., there is no investigation ongoing), right? The only thing that is “new” here is that the general public has been given a glimpse of the scale of the “problem.”



    December 10, 2012 at 8:20 pm

  6. Terry: No one approves of the mistakes or possible misconduct that were described in that article. The fact that there was an audit at all suggests that the Columbia administration also thought this was quite serious. Audits of this type are very, very rare in academia. Also, some people at Columbia are still really, really upset – documents don’t leak themselves. Beyond these observations, I – and my colleagues presumably – don’t have much to say or add to this conversation.



    December 10, 2012 at 8:57 pm

  7. Assuming Fabio meant “school effects” in the most general, vaguest sense (e.g. primary, secondary, tertiary), the education system in the United States has a weird amalgamation of egalitarian effects but also stratifying ones that resist easy characterization.

    Egalitarian effects:
    * SES inequalities in the rate of learning decline when school is in session (Downey et al, Alexander & Entwisle)
    * Attending college benefits those students who are the most borderline in terms of the probability of attending college (Brand & Xie)
    * The labor market benefits of enrolling in a selective college are stronger for low-SES students (e.g. Krueger & Dale)
    * The benefits of enrolling in Advanced Placement courses (in terms of college destinations) tend to be stronger for low-SES students (my own research)

    Stratifying effects:
    * racial inequalities in the rate of learning increase (slightly) when school is in session (Downey et al)
    * qualitative studies showing how high-SES families use their cultural capital to get special treatment in schools (Oakes, Wells, Lareau, Calarco, Demerath)
    * Tracking practices appear more exclusive and less egalitarian in school serving high-SES and white student bodies
    * lower-class kids face social problems in affluent schools (Crosnoe)
    * SES gradients in college selectivity grow in high-SES high schools (my own research)



    December 11, 2012 at 5:14 pm

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