Tag Archives: Low-income students

Rumble in academia about study of ‘undermatching’ of ethnic groups and elite colleges

11 Feb

Mary Beth Markein wrote in the 2009 USA Today article, Q&A: Minority, low-income students need to aim higher:

GRADUATION RATES: If graduation is assumed, students don’t want to fall behind
HIGHER ED: More on grad rates at public universities
Q: You use the term “undermatch” to describe a student who appears to be eligible for a more selective college than the one where they enrolled. Why is undermatching a problem?
Bowen: It is sort of counterintuitive. You would think a student with reasonable qualifications would be more likely to graduate by going to a school where they’re not up against super-prepared kids, where there’s less competition. One argument against affirmative action has been that African-American students get discouraged at places that are too tough for them and drop out. But we found no evidence to support that. Going to a place where you’re challenged increases outcomes. Now, there may be good reasons for undermatching, but this should not be the norm. Yet data in North Carolina suggest that 40% of students undermatch by going to a less selective four-year university, to a two-year college, or to no college.
Q: You argue for better advising for high school students. What about cost? Selective schools tend to have higher sticker prices.
McPherson: If you look at the net price, after allowing for loans and grants, it turns out that in many cases the flagships, for example, may be cheaper for low-income students than less selective institutions in the state. But financing has to be in place and unambiguous. Some relatively vague promise that families will be able to afford a particular school is probably not a message that most lower- and moderate-income families are going to believe. One answer is to make the financial aid system simpler and more reliable. Another is making sure you get the money to the right people. If this country wants to have more college graduates, we have to do better for low- and moderate-income students….. http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/education/2009-09-09-completing-college_N.htm

Not much has changed since 2009.

Scott Jaschik reported in the Inside Higher Ed article, Is ‘Undermatching’ Overrated?

Few educational theories have taken off as quickly in recent years as that of “undermatching.” The idea is that many academically talented, low-income students who could succeed at top colleges are not applying to, enrolling in or graduating from them. Research on the topic has attracted widespread attention not only from colleges but from the White House, where administration officials have urged higher education leaders to do more on the issue.
But an analysis published Friday in Educational Researcher (abstract available here) argues that some key assumptions behind much undermatching research are flawed — and that new studies are needed to determine how much of the theory holds. The authors are Michael N. Bastedo, director of the Center for the Study of Higher and Postsecondary Education at the University of Michigan, and Allyson Flaster, a doctoral student at Michigan.
A key part of undermatching theory is that the disadvantaged students who enroll at less competitive colleges are missing the chance at institutions with greater resources, higher graduation rates and more prestige. But Bastedo and Flaster question whether the researchers have in fact identified the “margins that matter” to student success.
They argue that the much increased opportunity that comes from attending a “top” institution is truly evident only at the very top, the wealthiest institutions that don’t require students to borrow. But much of the undermatching research isn’t looking at the top 50 colleges, but the top 200 or so, a group so wide that it doesn’t focus on the institutions that really have exceptional resources compared to all others.
Further, the new article says that undermatching studies largely ignore a match that truly matters: whether a student enrolls at a community college or four-year institution. This choice, the authors write, is a crucial one (and perhaps far more important than whether a student attends a more or less competitive four-year institution) if the goal is to have more disadvantaged students earn bachelor’s degrees because of the relatively low rates at which community college students go on to do so.
More on ‘Undermatching’
• Study finds that a majority of low-income, high academic ability students fail to apply to a single competitive college. http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2012/12/11/study-says-many-highly-talented-low-income-students-never-apply-top-colleges
• Study finds that certain interventions have an impact on whether low-income, high ability students will apply to competitive colleges. http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2013/04/01/research-suggests-top-colleges-could-attract-many-more-high-achieving-low-income
• Obama administration talks to colleges about undermatching. http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2013/12/06/obama-administration-asks-colleges-set-goals-lower-income-student-success

There is of course, a contra view regarding what this study means.

Jaschik got an e-mail reply from Professor Caroline Hoxby:

Caroline M. Hoxby, a professor of economics at Stanford University, and the co-author of several of the leading studies on undermatching, was highly critical of the Bastedo-Flaster analysis. Via email, Hoxby said: “Our studies are definitive. We not only study 100 percent (I said 100 percent and I am not kidding) of low-income high achievers, but we also have causal impacts (we have studies that rely on randomized controlled trials in which students are induced by our interventions to apply to more selective colleges).”
She suggested that Inside Higher Ed “simply ignore this low quality study,” which she characterized as “a 1 on a scale of 1 to 10,” noting that “one of the great faults of the media is to give similar weight to studies” without being able to evaluate their quality. (Hoxby is a highly respected researcher on higher education, as are some of the others who work on undermatching, but so is Bastedo, and it may be relevant that this new analysis is being published in the flagship journal of the American Educational Research Association.)
Christopher Avery, a professor of public policy at Harvard University who has written pieces with Hoxby about undermatching, said via email that the “ultimate test” of the theory would be whether interventions have an impact. If the Educational Researcher analysis is accurate, he said, then interventions wouldn’t have much of an impact. But, he noted, a study by Hoxby and another co-author found that interventions do appear to work, and that evidence is “pretty compelling,” he said. http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2014/02/10/analysis-questions-assumptions-behind-undermatching-theory#ixzz2t35Hki7x


Conceptual and Methodological Problems in Research on College Undermatch
1. Michael N. Bastedo1
2. Allyson Flaster1
1. 1University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI
Access to the nation’s most selective colleges remains starkly unequal, with students in the lowest income quartile constituting less than 4% of enrollment. A popular explanation for this phenomenon is that low-income students undermatch by attending less selective colleges when their credentials predict admission to more highly selective colleges. We identify three problematic assumptions in research on undermatching: (a) that researchers can differentiate colleges at the “margin that matters” for student outcomes; (b) that researchers can accurately predict who will be admitted at colleges that use holistic admission processes; and (c) that using achievement measures like SAT (Scholastic Assessment Test) scores to match students to colleges will reduce postsecondary inequality. We discuss the implications of these assumptions for future research on college choice and stratification.
• admissions
• higher education
• research methodology
• social class
• social stratification
Article Notes
• Received April 25, 2013.
• Revision received October 9, 2013.
• Revision received January 7, 2014.
• Accepted January 14, 2014.
• © 2014 AERA
1. Published online before print February 7, 2014, doi: 10.3102/0013189X14523039 EDUCATIONAL RESEARCHER February 7, 2014 0013189X14523039
1. » Abstract
2. Full Text
3. Full Text (PDF)


Can We Fix Undermatching in Higher Ed? Would it Matter if We Did? http://www.brookings.edu/blogs/brown-center-chalkboard/posts/2014/01/15-undermatching-higher-ed-chingos

Smart, Poor Kids Are Applying to the Wrong Colleges http://www.slate.com/articles/business/moneybox/2013/03/undermatching_half_of_the_smartest_kids_from_low_income_households_don_t.html

The best way to eliminate poverty is job creation, job growth, and job retention. The Asian Development Bank has the best concise synopsis of the link between Education and Poverty http://www.adb.org/documents/assessing-development-impact-breaking-cycle-poverty-through-education For a good article about education and poverty which has a good bibliography, go to Poverty and Education, Overview http://education.stateuniversity.com/pages/2330/Poverty-Education.html There will not be a good quality of life for most citizens without a strong education system. One of the major contributors to poverty in third world nations is limited access to education opportunities. Without continued sustained investment in education, we are the next third world country.

Choosing the right college for you

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Remedial education in college

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Research paper: Interpreting international test scores in light of social class differences

15 Jan

Moi wrote about international student rankings in Important Harvard report about U.S. student achievement ranking:

More and more, individuals with gravitas are opining about the American education system for reasons ranging from national security to economic competitiveness. In Condoleezza Rice and Joel Klein report about American Education, moi wrote:

The Council on Foreign Relations has issued the report, U.S. Education Reform and National Security. The chairs for the report are Joel I. Klein, News Corporation and Condoleezza Rice, Stanford University. Moi opined about the state of education in U.S. education failure: Running out of excuses https://drwilda.wordpress.com/2011/12/13/u-s-education-failure-running-out-of-excuses/ Education tends to be populated by idealists and dreamers who are true believers and who think of what is possible. Otherwise, why would one look at children in second grade and think one of those children could win the Nobel Prize or be president? Maybe, that is why education as a discipline is so prone to fads and the constant quest for the “Holy Grail” or the next, next magic bullet. There is no one answer, there is what works for a particular population of kids. https://drwilda.wordpress.com/2012/03/19/condoleezza-rice-and-joel-klein-report-about-american-education/

Joy Resmovits reports at Huffington Post that the meaning of international test comparisons do not provide an accurate picture.

In International Test Scores Often Misinterpreted To Detriment Of U.S. Students, Argues New EPI Study, Resmovits reports:

Lawmakers should be more careful when using international test scores to drive education policy, argues a pair of researchers in a new paper for the left-leaning think tank Economic Policy Institute — because the results aren’t always what they appear to be.

According to a new paper released Wednesday, the average scores on international tests — the numbers over which advocates and politicians do much public hand-wringing — don’t tell the whole story of America’s academic performance, and inferences based on those averages can be misleading, Stanford education professor Martin Carnoy and researcher Richard Rothstein argue. They found that contrary to popular belief, international testing information shows that America’s low-income students have been improving over time…

Rothstein found that the U.S. is more unequal in social background, so he wondered whether differences between the average U.S. scores and those of its competitors were driven by that inequality. Rothstein said he was not surprised by his findings, given that the achievement gap between rich and poor U.S. students has always been large. “Higher social class students have higher average scores than lower social class students,” he said. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/15/international-test-scores_n_2479994.html?utm_hp_ref=education

Here is a portion of the executive summary:

What do international tests really show about U.S. student performance?

By Martin Carnoy, Stanford Graduate School of Education and EPI
and Richard Rothstein, EPI

 View PDF

Download PDF

This report, however, shows that such inferences are too glib. Comparative student performance on international tests should be interpreted with much greater care than policymakers typically give it. This care is essential for three reasons:

  • First, because academic performance differences are produced by home and community as well as school influences, there is an achievement gap between the relative average performance of students from higher and lower social classes in every industrialized nation. Thus, for a valid assessment of how well American schools perform, policymakers should compare the performance of U.S. students with that of students in other countries who have been and are being shaped by approximately similar home and community environments….

We have shown that U.S. student performance, in real terms and relative to other countries, improves considerably when we estimate average U.S. scores after adjusting for U.S. social class composition and for a lack of care in sampling disadvantaged students in particular. With these adjustments, U.S. scores would rank higher among OECD countries than commonly reported in reading—fourth best instead of 14th—and in mathematics—10th best instead of 25th.

  • Second, to be useful for policy purposes, information about student performance should include how this performance is changing over time. It is not evident what lessons policymakers should draw from a country whose student performance is higher than that in the United States, if that country’s student performance has been declining while U.S student performance has been improving…. performance of all students in such countries obscures the performance of disadvantaged students.

This caution especially pertains to conventional attention to comparisons of the United States and higher-scoring Finland. Although Finland’s average scores, and scores for the most-disadvantaged children, remain substantially higher than comparable scores in the United States, scores in the United States for disadvantaged children have been rising over time, while Finland’s scores for comparable children have been declining. American policymakers should seek to understand these trends before assuming that U.S. education practice should imitate practice in Finland.

As well, U.S. trends for disadvantaged children’s PISA achievement are much more favorable than U.S. trends for advantaged children. In both reading and math, disadvantaged children’s scores have been improving while advantaged student’s scores have been stagnant. U.S. policy discussion assumes that most of problems of the U.S. education system are concentrated in schools serving disadvantaged children. Trends in PISA scores suggest that the opposite may be the case.

  • Third, different international and domestic tests sometimes seem to show similar trends, but sometimes seem quite inconsistent. These inconsistencies call into question conclusions drawn from any single assessment, and policymakers should attempt to understand the complex causes of these inconsistencies….

In our comparisons of U.S. student performance on the PISA test with student performance in six other countries—three similar post-industrial economies (France, Germany, and the United Kingdom) and three countries whose students are “top scoring” (Canada, Finland, and Korea)—we conclude that, in reading:

  • Higher social class (Group 5) U.S. students now perform as well as comparable social class students in all six comparison countries.
  • Disadvantaged students perform better (in some cases, substantially better) than disadvantaged students in the three similar post-industrial countries, but substantially less well than disadvantaged students in the three top-scoring countries.
  • The reading achievement gap between advantaged and disadvantaged students in the United States is smaller than the gap in the three similar post-industrial countries, but larger than the gap in the top-scoring countries….

These comparisons suggest that much of the discussion in the United States that points to international test comparisons to contend that U.S. schools are “failing” should be more nuanced. Although claims about relative U.S. school failure often focus on disadvantaged students’ performance, international data show that U.S. disadvantaged student performance has improved over the past decade in both mathematics and reading compared to similar social class students in all our comparison countries except Germany. TIMSS and NAEP data also show improvement for all social class groups in mathematics during the last decade. Should we consider these improvements a failure, particularly when the scores of disadvantaged students in all comparison countries but Germany have declined in this same period? http://www.epi.org/publication/us-student-performance-testing/

The increased rate of poverty has profound implications if this society believes that ALL children have the right to a good basic education. Moi blogs about education issues so the reader could be perplexed sometimes because moi often writes about other things like nutrition, families, and personal responsibility issues. Why? The reader might ask? Because children will have the most success in school if they are ready to learn. Ready to learn includes proper nutrition for a healthy body and the optimum situation for children is a healthy family. Many of societies’ problems would be lessened if the goal was a healthy child in a healthy family. There is a lot of economic stress in the country now because of unemployment and underemployment. Children feel the stress of their parents and they worry about how stable their family and living situation is.

Teachers and schools have been made TOTALLY responsible for the education outcome of the children, many of whom come to school not ready to learn and who reside in families that for a variety of reasons cannot support their education. All children are capable of learning, but a one-size-fits-all approach does not serve all children well. Different populations of children will require different strategies and some children will require remedial help, early intervention, and family support to achieve their education goals.


Report from Center for American Progress report: Kids say school is too easy                                                                           https://drwilda.wordpress.com/2012/07/10/report-from-center-for-american-progress-report-kids-say-school-is-too-easy/

Complete College America report: The failure of remediation https://drwilda.wordpress.com/2012/06/21/complete-college-america-report-the-failure-of-remediation/

Book: Inequality in America affects education outcome https://drwilda.wordpress.com/2012/06/10/book-inequality-in-america-affects-education-outcome/

What exactly are the education practices of top-performing nations?                                       http://drwilda.wordpress.com/2012/05/28/what-exactly-are-the-education-practices-of-top-performing-nations/

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