EdNext Podcast: How Much Does Family Background Affect Student Achievement?

By 03/09/2016

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James S. Coleman’s 1966 “Equality of Opportunity” study, also known as the Coleman Report, is now widely regarded as the most influential piece of education research in American history. But few may know that the federal agency that commissioned it initially hoped that its findings would be ignored. In fact, the U.S. Office of Education chose to release the Coleman Report not just on a weekend, but on a weekend coinciding with a major national holiday, the Fourth of July. Its initial release drew barely a mention in the national news, which was just what top officials in Lyndon Johnson’s administration intended. Why were they so concerned?

On this week’s Ed Next podcast, Marty West of Education Next talks with Anna Egalite, assistant professor of education at North Carolina State University and the author of “How Family Background Influences Student Achievement,” which appears in the Spring 2016 issue of the journal commemorating the 50th anniversary of Jim Coleman’s landmark report.

They discuss the Coleman Report’s finding that family background explained more about student achievement than factors within the control of the school or other things that education policy can influence. Egalite also describes some of the mechanisms by which family background influences student outcomes and considers options for policymakers.

The EdNext Podcast is available on iTunesSoundcloudStitcher and here every Wednesday.

—Education Next

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