School Rankings and the Diversity Penalty

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6 Responses

  1. Ken Arromdee says:

    Ah, Asians and whites are racial homogeneity.

    What you mean is “racial heterogeneity of the wrong kind”, not “racial homogeneity”.

  2. Jonny says:

    It seems like this post ignores the fact that going to school with students who score better on standardized tests may also be more intelligent (assuming the proxy of test scores means anything and I believe that it does) and thus there may be some benefit to having your child exposed to other really bright students. In other words, the quality of education delivered is not the only factor integral to the education of students (as you acknowledge by touting the benefits of diversity) – so too is the student body an important dynamic when it comes to the holistic benefits of a school.

  3. Sarah Waldeck says:


    The post doesn’t address the point you raise, but the underlying paper to which I link does. There is a substantial literature on peer effects–the idea that students benefit from being around high achievers. You should check out the paper if you are interested in this phenomenon, but the short answer is that peer effects aren’t as straightforward as your comment suggests. Rather, children and teens tend to be most influenced by their socioeconomic and racial peers. Therefore, parents can’t simply assume that the school with the highest aggregate test scores will have the most positive peer effects. Instead, parents should look closely at the achievement of the portions of the student body that they consider most relevant to their child. Parents who lump all students together learn less about a school and its probable effects on their child than parents who disaggregate.

  4. Londoner says:

    I disagree with this post (I haven’t had time to read the paper yet) on a number of grounds, but I’ll stick to this one for now. Your theory seems to presuppose that the “achievement gap” exists independently of the quality of the school, rather than as a consequence of it.

    I would suggest that it’s far more likely that the race gap exists because the schools in areas with many African-Americans and Latin@s are bad than that the schools get bad rankings because of their racial composition. Rather than adjusting the scores for racial composition, the better methodology is to adjust for non-school factors (poverty, crime, native language, etc.) that happen to affect AAs & L@s more (in the case of poverty and crime, largely due to the legacy of discrimination). I think they’ll show that schools in high-AA/L@ areas are “bad” schools (often due to bad funding), and this explains the racial gap, rather than the racial gap explaining the bad performance of the school.

    Boiled down, my complaint is that you take the achievement gap as a given, rather than treating it as the problem to be addressed.

  5. Sarah Waldeck says:


    My co-author and I agree that the achievement gap is not a given– that’s one of the reasons the post notes that the gap is not inevitable and that educators are working to close it. It is also true that socioeconomics, school quality and a variety of other factors feed the gap. As you anticipate, the underlying paper discusses this literature. However, while achievement gaps persist, we shouldn’t ignore the effect they have on comparisons of relative school quality. This is especially true because aggregated data has the unfortunate effect of obscuring which schools are doing a good job of closing the gap.

  6. Kelly says:

    Great article. Taking a closer look at specifically what data shows can be very beneficial. As an educator I can see the benefits of both, but as in anything parents and educators have to be advocates for themselves and their families.