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April  27

Just Wait Til They See the Lines for Harvard

It's a vicious cycle. People looking to move to a suburb with good schools hear about Glen Ridge and then move here -- bringing some extra kiddies along to be educated. Taxes go up, people who've raised their kids move out, and more young families move in -- with more extra kiddies to be educated. Before you know it, next year's first-grade at Linden Ave. School is expected to have 25 kids per classroom.

Today's Ledger features a story about Scott Raab and Lisa Brennan, who are so riled up they're leading an insurrection.

Raab -- an Esquire magazine writer who once got in the ring with a female boxing powerhouse -- is a Glen Ridge dad with a kindergartner in a class with a lot of other kindergartners.

And he's not happy about it.

"This is just unacceptable," he said yesterday morning, fresh from a meeting the night before with a group of 17 Linden Avenue School parents who feel they'll be short- changed again when their children arrive in first grade in the fall.

They've done the math -- 75 soon-to-be first-graders allotted three teachers, 75 soon-to-be second-graders allotted four, Brennan said -- and they don't like the disparity in a school whose motto is "Where Excellence Begins."

We remember those elementary school class-size battles -- and especially the time, in 1994, when parents successfully got a new kindergarten class at Linden a month into the school year -- but lately we've been hearing the outrage from the other end. Kids with 1,500 SAT's and 4.0's who aren't getting into Harvard. Oh the humanity!

It seems like the problem is really the same. Other people are having too many kids.

Mr. Raab, spread the word. The Glen Ridge school system ain't all it's cracked up to be. Maybe some young family will hear about it and move somewhere else.

April 27, 2005 in Barista Does the Math | Permalink


(links include sounds)

Everybody is a Size Queen! While popular and easy to quantify, class size is a minor variable in academic performance. Here is some interesting info.

WC Flushing Alert!: I once tried to post this study on the WC in a thread about class size but the post was flushed because (I suppose) the study was not done in Montclair. We don't want the locals challenging the NEA dogma, do we? " The people have to be protected!")

Posted by: Right of Center | Apr 27, 2005 10:36:18 AM

I believe GR schools are much better than many, and the school rankings, SAT scores and other statistics reflect that.

ROC is correct- smaller class size does not, in and of itself, result in superior education.

Rather, small class size along with other variables, including excellent teachers, a pro-active administration and involved parents make that happen.

Posted by: Pam | Apr 27, 2005 11:33:18 AM

During the winter I happened to see that a particular article was recommended on my "Political Sociology" reading list. It was

Schneider et al (1997) "Institutional Arrangements and the Creation of Social Capital: the Effects of Public School Choice." American Political Science Review 91 (1).

I opened up to the article and, lo and behold! Montclair was one of the subject school districts. Imagine my glee in far-off England.

And the study found that school choice Montclair-style actually increased social capital endowments, though the measures for social capital were flawed (for reasons I won't go into). More interestingly, though, the authors hypothesized that a higher level of parental education would correlate with greater trust in a child's teacher. That hypothesis was validated in the two urban districts in the study (both in NYC), but in Montclair, the opposite was true! Higher parental education correlated with DECREASED trust in a child's teacher.

In other words, Montclair parents have too much education for their own good.

Posted by: Marshall | Apr 27, 2005 3:58:00 PM

The Montclair Bitchy Factor codified!

Posted by: Right of Center | Apr 27, 2005 4:03:48 PM

well, actually "quantified", but to some degree "codified" also works!

Posted by: Right of Center | Apr 27, 2005 4:04:47 PM

[The Montclair Bitchy Factor codified!]

Is there anyone you don't hate, ROC?

Gosh, if you have such resentment for this town and somehow thing everyone here is bitchy, a conspiracist, a generation "me"-er, and on and on and on....why do you even belittle yourself by living here?

Posted by: butchcjg | Apr 27, 2005 5:13:08 PM

Marshall, gee it's handy having a scholar on Baristanet. This is very interesting. So was this study comparing Montclair with two urban NYC school districts? Was Montclair the only suburban one in the study? Is that why it's different?

The other question would be, is Montclair really a suburban school district, or an urban one?

Posted by: walleroo | Apr 27, 2005 9:06:58 PM

Sorry it's taken me awhile to respond, and I'd hesitate to lebel myself a "scholar". I'm only an undergraduate!

The study had four districts, two urban in NYC and two suburban, Montclair and Morristown. In each pair, one district had implemented some kind of choice regime, whilst the other had retained the traditional 'go-to-the-neighborhood-school' approach. The point was to test whether school choice had an effect on "social capital," and the authors found that it did, though as I said above their measures of social capital are suspect. For instance, one measure was whether parents discuss schools with one another. It could be argued that gaining information about school by learning from other parents is a necessary constituent of a choice regime, rather than the "innocent" effect of a choice regime. Thus, there's some endogeneity between school choice and the authors' measurement of social capital.

More relevant to what I wrote above, one of the social capital measurements was "trust" in a child's teacher, which mirrors the social capital literature's more general use of a trust variable. In line with general assumptions about social capital increasing with income, education, etc, the authors hypothesized that their trust variable would correlate positively with parental education. Instead, it correlated negatively!

As for whether Montclair's really suburban, I think that if there's a question about that it's undeniably the result of changing definitions of suburbia. At a certain time, Montclair was the absolute apotheosis of the suburb, whereas now we tend to think of more racially and economically homogeneous communities. Not to mention ugly housing developments.

Posted by: Marshall | Apr 28, 2005 10:47:41 AM

I should have said that in the case of Montclair vs. Morristown, the trust variable correlated negatively with parental education. The hypothesis was supported by the two NYC districts. Maybe after a certain level more education just makes you a nag!

Posted by: Marshall | Apr 28, 2005 10:49:56 AM

I was one of those parents looking for an amazing school system and looked into Glen Ridge. I realized that every school system faces similar problems and also realized that my situation would be even better in Wayne, NJ where schools there are just as good yet I'll save a few grand in taxes. GR's taxes are insane.

Posted by: Susan | Apr 29, 2005 5:19:54 PM

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