2005 May 01 Sunday
Housing Prices Increasingly Driven By SAT Scores

Lauren Meade has an article in The Christian Science Monitor on how the increasing use of SAT scores as a guide to home buying is leading to inflation of home prices in high SAT score areas.

Between the rise of the Internet and new laws that require more standardized testing and easier public access to test results, home-buyers can much more readily compare public schools.

...

Cities on the coasts and in Southern states like Florida and Texas have the largest gaps in home prices and test scores. In Brookline, Mass., for instance, an additional $250,000 means the difference between living in a top-notch versus mediocre school district.

The starting price for a three bedroom, two-bath house in Brookline is $700,000, says Kathleen Alexander, a realtor at Century 21 Cityside. But one of the "best-kept secrets," according to Ms. Alexander, is the nearby Melrose-Stoneham area, where a comparable house sells for $450,000.

The difference? The caliber of the schools in the different neighborhoods. Brookline High School scored significantly higher on the 2004 SAT test than Melrose High School. Average scores at Brookline were 578 on the verbal portion of the test, and 598 on the math; at Melrose High they were 519 and 513, respectively.

I would expect to see less segregation of housing tracts by intellectual ability in fast growing areas with lots of new housing because when the housing is first built there is no track record to guide purchasing choices. New schools have no history. But older schools in stable population areas do have records. Differences in performance of neighboring school districts will tend to get amplified with time as upper class parents choose whichever school districts are better and thereby widen the student performance gap between schools.

There is an irony here. Laws such as "No Child Left Behind" (NCLB) which require standardized testing of students are claimed by their backers (including one George W. Bush) to help close the gap between low and high performing students. But the data collected to help improve school performance in lower performing schools is being used by brighter middle and upper class parents to more efficiently separate their children from less bright lower class children. Parents of bright kids enrolled in lower performing schools are looking at average school test results to see how bad the students are where they are sending Jill and Johnny. Many are moving to put their kids in better schools. Less bright parents will, on average be less able to afford to make such a move, less knowledgeable about how their school is doing versus other schools, and less motivated to do anything about it.

The other interesting angle here is technology. Technological advances have enabled the rise of the internet which makes it much easier for home buyers to find the information that lets them choose houses based on school performance (and crime rates too). Technological advances are combining with the mania for testing to bring greater transparency to the home buying market. I predict the gaps between the lower and higher performing schools will grow larger as mentally sharper parents increasingly migrate to separate their kids from children born to less bright parents.

The top school districts have high percentages of children with brainy parents. For example, the top school district in North Carolina educates the children of very highly educated faculty and staff at UNC Chapel Hill.

The Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools is one of two public school systems in Orange County, N.C. Located near the flagship campus of the University of North Carolina and the world renowned Research Triangle Park, we serve a community with one of the highest educated populations in America.

The district operates two high schools, four middle schools and nine elementary schools which serve more than 10,000 students.

...

Among the 117 school districts in North Carolina, Chapel Hill-Carrboro has:

  • Highest district-wide average SAT score: 1185
  • Highest percentage of students taking the SAT: 92.5 percent of seniors
  • Highest high school End-of-Course tests results
  • Highest ranked high schools on state ABC Program
  • Highest percentage of faculty with master's degrees or doctorates: 56 percent
  • Highest local funding of public education at $3890 per student; one of the highest total funding per student: $8424
  • Highest percentage of graduating students pursuing their education beyond high school: 81 percent to four-year colleges and universities and 9 percent to two-year community colleges
  • Highest percentage of schools achieving exemplary growth on state tests.
  • Lowest high school dropout rate at 1.25 percent.

One of the 14 districts in the US in the Minority Student Achievement Network (MSAN).
The district is the fourth largest employer in the county with approximately 900 teachers and other school-based professional staff, and more than half of those hold advanced degrees, including doctorates

The 1.25 percent drop-out rate for Chapel Hill North Carolina should be contrasted with the national 50% drop-out rate of blacks and 47% for Hispanics. In the Los Angeles Unified School District the Hispanic drop-out rate is an incredible 61%. Unfortunately, America's future is trending more toward Los Angeles.

Note that the average SAT score for a school tells only half the story. The students who do not take the SAT would, if they took the SAT, score lower than the students who do take the SAT. To be a primo school the school must have both high scores and high test taking rates.

Segregating one's smart offspring into school districts with similarly gifted offspring makes a lot of sense. In many school districts egalitarian political activists constantly force closure of programs and classes for smarter students. But in school districts dominated by the cognitve elite the classes are geared toward the needs of their on-average smarter children.

Both Chapel Hill High School and East Chapel Hill High are recognized in Newsweek magazine (March, 2001) for being in the top 100 high schools nationally for the participation of students in advanced placement (AP) course work.

...

Over 3500 students, or more than one-third of all students, receive services in gifted education. Each school employs at least one enrichment specialist and uses multiple criteria to identify students as gifted. In fact, in each classroom 40 to 45 percent of the students score at the 97th, 98th or 99th percentiles on state tests.

This is an especially interesting result for Chapel Hill because it is near a university which is of course dominated by overwhelmingly liberal faculty and staff. Highly educated liberals "talk left" in favor of equality for all and most give lip service in favor of racial preferences for other racial groups. But when it comes to their own families they "live right" by choosing to live in high scoring school districts and make sure that accelerated educational tracks are available in case their kids can handle the intellectual fast lane.

Check out a chart of Houston area school districts ranked by average SAT scores. Note that the second ranked school has 100% SAT test taking participation. Does that school require all of its students to take the SAT test?

Note that if you go searching for SAT scores for school districts a lot of the web pages that Google turns up are provided by realtors. For instance, see a realtor's tables for SAT scores in the Portland Oregon area. But state governments are also kind enough to make it easy for the cognitive elite to segregate their neighborhoods by intellectual ability. For example, the Oregon Department of Education kindly makes available downloadable school scorecards.

Note: If anyone can find a nice searchable national database of SAT scores by high school or by school district please post a link in the comments or email me. I'd like to find a web site with forms for searching their SAT scores database. Desirable features include the ability to order results from high to low or low to high, restrict searches to geographic areas, put qualifying ranges on SAT score results, and other similar qualifiers. What would be spectacular would be such a database combined with housing price information or income information. I've tried to find such sites but hit too many search results that were aimed at real estate buyers for particular geographic areas.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2005 May 01 01:07 PM  Education


Comments
Invisible Scientist said at May 1, 2005 2:00 PM:

But to be the Devil's advocate, some cynical parents might intentionally send their children to a school where the average intelligence of the students is below the intelligence of their own children so that the grade point average of their kids becomes much higher, because grades are almost always curved, and it becomes FAR more difficult to get an A in a very competitive course than in a course where the other students are less capable, even if the level of the course is the same in both classes. Assuming that the smart cynical parents can find a school where the quality of instruction is acceptable (not too far below the elite schools) but where the average IQ of the students is lower in comparison to their kids, then their kids would definitely have a VERY good chance of obtaining an A average, simply by studing very hard, by doing a lot of exercises, preparing very hard for all exams, etc. And let me also emphasize that many top colleges are emphasizing the grades and the letters of recommendation far more than the SAT scores.

John S Bolton said at May 1, 2005 4:28 PM:

It shows that they care about their children's intellectual development for its own sake, and not for the admissions office's impressions so much; since there is also punishment for being in the middle of the pack at the best high school. Such policies are driving brighter students out of the state systems which use percent plans. Did anyone notice that the top ranked NC district mentioned, spent less than NYC or DC per student, and possibly less than LA spends today? If you have quality of population, low expenditures are not likely to be a problem. If you have a degraded quality of population going into the schools, 10,12,14k or more per student just goes down the welfare project rathole. If officials were to admit this, though, they might as well give up their hopes of achieving dictatorship in a country where people have had success.

Raskolnikov said at May 1, 2005 10:32 PM:

From K-8, send your kids to schools in the same location as the highest-SAT high schools. For 9-12, send your kids to high schools with relatively lower SAT. That way your kids become good students during K-8, but in 9-12 they can have an easier time in terms of grades.

Rasputin said at May 2, 2005 5:37 AM:

The universities that are downgrading SAT's are also downgrading their own educational product, and lowering the quality of their students. Since it's about money rather than scholarship no one notices. Better to stick with the schools that care about quality rather than political correctness and trendiness. Faced with the obvious degradation of educational product, undeserved reputations will fail, and it will be the devil to get the good reputation back again.

Invisible Scientist said at May 2, 2005 6:20 AM:

In the future, a brain scan, or even a DNA test, will be more reliable than a SAT, for it will reveal the potential aptitude of the subject. Then personal freedom will come to an end. Your fate will be sealed from birth.

John S Bolton said at May 2, 2005 2:41 PM:

Freedom doesn't mean the chance to deceive people about one's potential, it means being free of attacks by aggressors. Segregation is one of the important developments of freedom from aggression, and those with malevolent feelings against the progress of humanity, are well aware of this. Civilization ~is~ freedom from aggression. Consider the NAACP's rage against the school districts of Long Island, which it describes as being just about the most segregated of major metro areas in the country, by their racial comparisons. These districts, with less than 1% of the population in the country, keep winning around a quarter of the HS science prizes won in the entire country. Those who want freedom for aggression, would burn up with malice and envy over this, and ask how can the state be provoked into using aggression to get black teenage criminals into those districts, wouldn't they? Likewise, the ivy league is not about to institute a lottery for its admissions, and this is how they will maintain a level of quality. Everything of quality is that way because it segregates or excludes lower quality components. The government, with assistance from a dishonest intelligentsia, says that they're against all kinds of discrimination. Value arises by discriminating and excluding or segregating off, the lower value. Power grabbing officials are concerned that we might excude or segregate aggression, though, because that would limit their power. It is the power to get people to do what they don't want, or to accept what is not voluntarily acceptable to them, which alone qualifies as real power. That is the real power which only aggression can provide; but if only aggression can supply that power, only evil can approve of it.

Brock said at May 2, 2005 4:59 PM:

[quote]In the future, a brain scan, or even a DNA test, will be more reliable than a SAT, for it will reveal the potential aptitude of the subject. Then personal freedom will come to an end. Your fate will be sealed from birth.[/quote]
I fundamentally disagree with this statement. Yeah, you have to be relatively smart to make it big in life, but among the intelligent good habits are what make or break. I've met smart kids who were complete losers, and average kids who studied hard and kicked ass. Your "personal freedom" to choose how hard you're going to work, and how efficiently you manage your time - that matters for a lot.

Randall,

Good post. Caused me to look up my alma matter. Slipped to 3rd in NJ I see. Used to be 2nd ...

I couldn't find a site like you were looking for. http://www.schoolmatters.com lets you compare States, but not townships as far as I can tell. At first I was like, "Whoa, Alabama and Arkansas beat out NJ's state average by 100 pts! Wow. That must confuse Blue-Staters!" But then I saw only 6% of Arkansas takes the SAT, vs. 80% of NJ. Selection problem, much? There's a lot more to that site than I have time to look into though, so maybe you can compare it by township and I just didn't see it. Doing a reverse search at Google to see who links to them gets a lot of quality-looking hits. One of them is a PDF, "A Guide to How Data Improves Student Achievement", which seems to be what you're looking for.

Although not as useful as SchoolMatters, you might also want to take a look here:
Data Driven Decision Making (in education) --> http://3d2know.cosn.org/

jeff hooke said at August 3, 2005 9:40 AM:

I am looking for data service that provides SAT scores by county in the US. Any ideas?

Milan said at April 22, 2008 5:06 PM:

I wonder if anyone has done a long term study of how this trend plays out over time? It makes sense that this would be a self reinforcing trend.

Bob Swanson said at March 13, 2010 2:03 AM:

The Teachers' union has done a great job hiding any trace of SAT scores by school. They'll do anything to ensure they can't be held to any kind of performance metric. And of course No Child Left Behind was crippled #thanks to union lobbyists# by requiring only that each state make up its owns performance tests. You can't compare apples to apples.

Thanks, teachers' union. You and Obama have proven again that you don't care about kids, education or America's future.


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