Quick Links – Middle school mess; hypergamy and single-parent families; bipartisan cuts to higher ed; and more

by Grace

◊◊◊  The middle school debate

Various views on the middle school model were presented in the New York Times last year.

You don’t have to have to read all the studies to know that the ages between 10 and 13 are socially awkward ones. But they are also important ones academically, crucial in determining college and career outcomes. Would these preteens be better off staying in an elementary school that covers kindergarten through eighth grade? Or is there a reason why this age group needs to be sectioned off into a separate middle school?

Another observation on the Middle School Mess:

American middle schools have become the places “where academic achievement goes to die.”  — Cheri Pierson Yecke

◊◊◊  Fewer college-educated men are reason for rise in single parent families?

The effects of a low sex ratio

As this column has repeatedly noted, women are hypergamous, which means that their instinct is to be attracted to men of higher status than themselves. When the societywide status of women increases relative to men, the effect is to diminish the pool of suitable men for any given woman. If most women reject most men as not good enough for them, the effect is no different from that of a low sex ratio. High-status men, being in short supply, set the terms of relationships, resulting in libertine sexual mores and higher illegitimacy.

I rarely see the term “illegitimacy” used these days.

◊◊◊  ‘Bipartisan Support for Cutting Higher-Ed

The national trend is marked: between 2009 and 2012, 47 states cut higher education spending per FTE. The median (mean) reduction was just over 23 percent (22 percent). Just three states saw increases: Illinois (unified Democratic government), North Dakota (unified Republican government), and Rhode Island (divided government with Republican governor).

When they have had unified government, both Democrats and Republicans have cut higher education funding. If we look at the seven states with unified Democratic control over this period, six reduced funding. Those six (excluding Illinois’s 2.8 percent increase) reduced funding by between 19 and 31 percent (West Virginia and Washington respectively) for an average reduction of 22.9 percent.

Of the nine states under unified Republican control, eight reduced funding by an average of 25.2 percent, ranging from a 0.2 percent decline in South Dakota to 42.8 percent reduction in Idaho. Texas, one of Leonard’s great villains, reduced funding by 9.2 percent (less than any of the Democratically-controlled states). Florida cut funding by 27 percent, which outranked all but one unified Democratic state. So while Republican-controlled states did cut higher education spending, they were not alone; unified Democratic governments more than held their own. (Of the 17 states with divided government, 16 reduced higher ed spending by an average of 25 percent during the period)….

These data suggest a bipartisan national trend, not a conservative conspiracy. The vast majority of states–whether controlled by Republicans or Democrats–have cut higher education funding in response to budget deficits.

◊◊◊  Grandparents’ contribution make up about 9.5 percent of the total 529 assets

By all accounts, Grandma and Grandpa are more active than ever in funding their grandkids’ educations, including sinking money into 529 college savings plans….

By the end of 2012, American families had a record $190.7 billion socked away in 529 college savings plans, according to a March 13 report from the College Savings Plans Network. …

Parents still contribute the lion’s share of funds invested in 529 accounts. But contributions from grandparents now make up about 9.5 percent of the total, according to the most recent data from the Financial Research Corp, which tracks 529 investments. It was a substantial enough increase that FRC started keeping track of which types of relatives were funding 529s for the first time last year.

3 Comments to “Quick Links – Middle school mess; hypergamy and single-parent families; bipartisan cuts to higher ed; and more”

  1. “The problem with keeping kids in elementary school through 8th grade is that many parents, myself included, don’t want our younger kids exposed to the kinds of things that 8th graders may be doing.”

    That’s probably a well-founded concern, but a middle school configuration appears to hurt 6th graders. Middle school 6th graders tend to have more disciplinary problems than elementary school 6th graders, and poor behavior persists through future grades. At the very least, going back to a junior high system may be an improvement.

    Or keeping grades 1 through 8 together could benefit all grades, slowing down the older students’ descent into typical unruly behaviors. That “Lord of the Rings” effect appears to be real.


  2. LOL, Grace. Don’t you mean ‘Lord of the Flies?

    I have a 6th grader in a 6-8 middle school right now and have had a student in a 7-8 school previously. Both schools had their good points and my kids haven’t been exposed to too much unruliness at either. Both schools had strong leadership. I think there was more misbehavior overall at the 7-8 school, though not sure if that is due to the demographics or what. The 6-8 school places a lot of emphasis on good habits and community, as far as I can see this does appear to have an effect on student behavior.

    I’d be happy with the lower work load of elementary for a 6th grader though.


  3. “LOL, Grace. Don’t you mean ‘Lord of the Flies?”

    Must have been some kind of Freudian slip with deep meaning. 🙂 Actually, my daughter is attending a “Lord of the Rings” marathon today, so I guess it was on my mind.

    “The 6-8 school places a lot of emphasis on good habits and community, as far as I can see this does appear to have an effect on student behavior.”

    That’s the way it’s supposed to work, but the criticism has been that what actually happens is that academics takes a back seat to all the “good habits and community” activities. A lot of middle school academics seems to be in a holding pattern for students until they hit high school. And the behavior is often horrendous anyway.

    Our local MS principal explained to parents that this was such an intensive developmental period that it would be a mistake to put too much emphasis on academic excellence. Not exactly his words, but close. At the time he was trying to justify the the lack of more honors classes.


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