“Simpson’s Paradox”? New “Fix-The-Schools” Book Fails To Address Immigration
September 26, 2013, 03:30 AM
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As a book reviewer, I just received a copy of a book entitled Endangering Prosperity: A Global View of the American School , along with three pages of summaries discussing its contents. Its authors, Eric Hanushek, [Email] a Senior Fellow at Stanford’s Hoover Institution, Paul E. Peterson, [Email]also a Hoover Senior Fellow and a Professor of Government at Harvard, and Ludger Woessmann, [Email] a professor of economics at the University of Munich, all bring substantial credentials to their assignment. And the book is published by the prestigious liberal Brookings Institution.

“Simpson’s Paradox”? New “Fix-The-Schools” Book Fails To Address Immigration

One reviewer on Amazon awards the book the maximum 5 stars, saying,

This book brings a lot of hard data, both international and domestic, to help illustrate several key points.

(a) The actual learning performance of students, as measured on standardized (cross-country) tests, correlates with different countries' economic performance to a striking degree. (Does growth explain schooling or the other way around? Well, the authors also show that learning in an earlier period links to growth in subsequent periods).

(b) US schools overall are doing a fairly weak job with getting kids to learn key skills, compared to other advanced economies.

(c) With efforts at improvement – and this is by no means all or even primarily about volumes of money – jurisdictions can in fact improve their relative and absolute performance, as shown e.g., by states like Maryland, Massachusetts, and Florida.

Of course, there are plenty of people out there with vested interests or axes to grind. Critics will no doubt cavil at the book's analysis, arguing that things are not all that bad... or that it's all the fault of our ethnic heterogeneity. Approach these excuses for complacency with skepticism. And above all read the book. [Links added to all quotes by VDARE.com]

Confession: I am indeed one of those who cavil at the book’s analysis because I think "it’s all the fault of our ethnic heterogeneity"! What was the benchmark situation before 1965, when our immigration laws were changed to unleash a flood of immigrants into an education system that was utterly unprepared for it?

I am not denying the analysis of these experts—but crying out also for attention to be paid to the immigration disaster we have brought upon ourselves.

We know the power of the backers of this disaster—Big Business, the Catholic Church and the ethnic lobbies like LULAC. Illegal aliens probably number between 11-20 million. Legal immigrants and the children generated by both groups total over 100 million since 1965. Then our population was under 200 million; now it exceeds 310 million and projected to reach 500 million by mid-century.

In this multi-cultural hodgepodge, the public education system must worsen.

Brookings says that   

This book is a call to action that every school leader–and every parent–in America must read–a call to action to take radical steps to overhaul and improve the way we educate our children or face the consequences. [PDF]

Dandy, but Brookings is apparently not willing to mention the immigration impact.

Another Amazon reviewer gives one star, the lowest rating, because of a variety of technical complaints about the way the authors present their data. He states that they have

fallen prey to Simpson's paradox, where a failure to account for lurking variables can reverse the inference made from the analysis. Hanushek relies on the International PISA exam to compare performance of American students to the OECD countries and asserts we come up short– we don't. His mistake: relying on average scores which is a bad metric for a number of reasons.[Backup link]

I leave this statement to my readers. But this reviewer’s next sentence makes clear what to me seems the obvious point:

"The U.S. is a multiracial society, and high scoring countries like Finland, Canada, and Korea are not. If you look at the average scores (Table 3) on the combined reading and literacy test given to 15 year olds on the 2009 PISA exam, you will see that the U.S. ranks 13 out of 34. However, Table 5 shows why the U.S. has a middle ranking (still higher then Germany). The U.S. scores have a multi-modal distribution because different groups have significantly different score distributions. If you look at group averages instead of the average of the aggregated scores an entirely different picture emerges. U.S. Asian students with their average score of 541 come out on top with a ranking of 1. U.S. white students are rank number 3 with an average score of 520."[Links added]

Yep. No big surprise. He continues:

"The overall U.S. average is dragged down by the low black and Hispanic averages of 441 and 466 respectively. However note that U.S. Hispanics still do significantly better than Mexican students with an average of 425. If we look at scores on math tests and science we get a similar result, although the U.S. should do a little better considering how much money we spend."

Again, the reviewer tells us:

"Our Asian and white students have average scores which put them at ranks 7 and 8 (approximately). This is far better than the rank 25 one observes with the aggregated data. Again the group averages show that we don't have a problem producing enough high quality students. One would have to believe that if our black and Hispanic students moved to Finland at a young age, Finland would keep its high ranking because the Finnish system would increase their scores. We have a good example of Simpson's paradox. While the scores for each group rank high, the aggregate of scores don't. The inference is reversed."

My view: if we keep up this mindless immigration of poorly-educated aliens, we will find the U.S. education system getting worse and worse. The promoters of the Dream Act talk only about valedictorians—not the majority who are just like their parents, all here illegally.

Passing the Senate’s Schumer-Rubio Amnesty/ Immigration Surge bill, or the modified version suggested by some House members, will only further erode our suffering education system.

These authors should have made this case.

Sadly, they did not.

Donald A. Collins [email him], is a freelance writer living in Washington DC and a former long time member of the board of FAIR, the Federation for American Immigration Reform. His views are his own.