Socio-Economic Issues

'You're born into this life paying, for the sins of somebody else's past.' Bruce Springsteen

Hattie's caveat of not addressing socio-economic issues has come under some criticism from Snook et al (2009, p. 2):
'... social class background is indeed more important than many of the issues discussed in this book and hence policy decisions cannot be drawn in isolation from the background variables of class, poverty, health'.
The United States Department of Education effect-size benchmarks support Snook's contention by showing African-American and Hispanic students perform at almost ONE standard deviation less than white students in the same age range (table from Lipsey et al. (2012, p. 30)):

Snook et al. (2009, p. 1) also warns that Hattie's rankings can be,
'appropriated by political and ideological interests and used in ways in which the data do not substantiate'.
This, of course, was denied by Hattie. However, that prediction has come to pass, in Australia, with the Federal government blocking a redress of socio-economic imbalance in education using Hattie's work as justification.

Similar events have occurred in New Zealand, prompting Professor John O'Neill's AMAZING letter to the NZ Minister of Education on the problem of using Hattie's research for class size policy.

Dr Zyngier links class size and socio-economic imbalance:
'The class size debate should now focus on weighing up the cost-benefit of class size reductions. Australian public education needs a more nuanced funding program that recognises where schools that are well-resourced already do not necessarily need the lower class sizes that disadvantaged schools require. Schools that are performing at the lower end of standardised tests such as NAPLAN, and where reducing class sizes is most needed, should be first to receive additional support. The Gonski Review’s conclusion that more funds should go to schools that need it most supports this concept' (p. 18).
McKnight & Whitburn (2018) in Seven reasons to question the hegemony of Visible Learning also warn of the bias in Visible Learning,
'The local, social and contextual are de-valued' (p. 15).


Director General Pasi Sahlberg (2015) You can do more with less.
'Research on what explains students’ measured performance in school remains mixed. However, researchers generally agree that up to two-thirds of the variation in student achievement is explainable by individual student characteristics like family background and such variables. The American Statistical Association concluded recently that teachers account for about 1 per cent to 14 per cent of the variability in test scores, and that the majority of opportunities for quality improvement are found in system-level conditions. In other words, most of what explains student achievement is beyond the control of teachers or even schools, and therefore arguing that teachers are the most important factor in improving the quality of education is simply wrong.
This doesn’t mean that teachers would not be important or that individual teachers could not turn the course of children in school. Of course they do. But it is often a combination of powerful factors that makes the most positive impact on students. Most scholars agree that effective leadership is among the most important characteristics of good schools, equally important to powerful teaching. Effective leadership includes leader qualities, such as being firm and purposeful, having a shared vision and goals, promoting teamwork and collegiality and frequent personal monitoring and feedback. Several other characteristics of more effective schools include features that are also linked to the culture of the school and leadership: maintaining focus on learning, producing a positive school climate, setting high expectations for all, developing staff skills and involving parents. In other words, school leadership matters as much as teacher quality.'
Sahlberg again comments about equity in the Finnish system in Finnish Lessons 2.0,
'An educational system that is equitable and where students learn well is also able to redress the effects of broader social and economic inequalities' (p72).
Nielsen & Klitmøller (2017) are also concerned,
'Hattie's neglected socioeconomic differences are likely to create the conditions for a class-blind pedagogy in the Danish education system.'
And also, Larsen (2014) Know thy impact – blind spots in John Hattie’s evidence credo.
'Hattie is sociological naïf. He pays no great attention to the interaction in the classroom and he atomizes the solitary individual’s learning results' (p. 5).


The PISA analysis consistently identifies socio-economic imbalance as a major issue for Countries to address, for example, from PISA 2012 Results in Focus (p. 12):
'Across OECD countries, a more socio-economically advantaged student scores 39 points higher in mathematics – the equivalent of nearly one year of schooling – than a less-advantaged student'.
'Across most countries and economies, socio-economically disadvantaged students not only score lower in mathematics, they also reported lower levels of engagement, drive, motivation, and self-beliefs' (p. 18).
From PISA results in 2012: Excellence through Equity (p. 44):
'Better schools for disadvantaged students can help reduce socio-economic disparities in performance; but countries also need to consider other policies that affect families, such as those to reduce poverty, malnutrition, and inadequate housing, those to improve parents’ education, and other social policies that can also improve student learning.'
'More than half of the performance differences observed across students in different schools can be accounted for by socio-economic disparities across students and schools, on average across OECD countries' (p. 46).
From PISA 2003 Learning for Tomorrows World – First results from PISA 2003:
'home background remains one of the most powerful factors influencing performance' (p. 165).
A report just released "Uneven Playing Feild - The State of Australia's Schools" by two ex-principals - Chris Bonnor and Bernie Shepherd show the growing divide between the most advantaged versus disadvantaged students.

Where you live is determining your school's NAPLAN score-
click here.

The Coleman Report (USA):

The Coleman Report is widely considered the most important education study of the 20th century.
"Using data from over 600,000 students and teachers across the country, the researchers found that academic achievement was less related to the quality of a student's school and more related to the social composition of the school, the student's sense of control of his environment and future, the verbal skills of teachers, and the student's family background."

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