How elite students get elite jobs

I really stand with the idea Paul Tough’s book How Children Succeed covers which is that students who grow up with challenges, whether it be economic, academic, family…etc actually build better character, grit and the ability to overcome obstacles that other students with more affluent lives may not.

This interview in the Washington Post just made another point that demonstrates the disadvantages of students who aren’t from affluent families.

In terms of getting jobs at elite firms, the author of the book Pedigree: How Elite Students Get Elite Jobs by Lauren Rivera describes a few of the inequities that privilege elite students.

The essence of her book is:

Whether intentionally or not, elite parents expose their children to different experiences and styles of interacting that are useful for getting ahead in society. Many of these are taken for granted in upper and upper-middle class circles, such as how to prepare a college application (and having cultivated the right types of accomplishments to impress admissions officers), how to network in a business setting in a way that seems natural, and how to develop rapport with teachers, interviewers, and other gatekeepers to get things you want from those in power.

Another specific point shows that even in college those extra curricula activities help showcase your skills and if you can’t afford to participate because of part time jobs or family commitments, you may miss out on those recruiting opportunities – even if you are at a top university.

employers also use extracurricular activities, especially those that are driven by “passion” rather than academic or professional interest and require large investments of time and money over many years, to screen résumés. But participation in these activities while in college or graduate school is not a luxury that all can afford, especially if someone needs to work long hours to pay the bills or take care of family members. Essentially, extracurriculars end up being a double filter on social class that disadvantages job applicants from more modest means both in entering the recruiting pipeline and succeeding within it.

She also notes that many recruiters are looking for people just like themselves, causing them to often search at the same or similar schools, social circles and attributes that may not lead them to explore all available avenues for recruiting. This practice keeps the same general types of people employed and doesn’t allow for a great deal of outsiders.

The interviewer asks Rivera what her intention was in writing the book. It turn out that there is a great deal of people purchasing the book as a how-to to get an elite job. Rivera says while she thinks it can be helpful for the non elite students to understand that gap and strive to make it more relevant to their lives, her intention was the bring these biases to the fore front and hope that recruiters change their behavior.

She acknowledges though that it may just reinforce the current behaviors and give elite students a firmer leg up in the game.


A school that isn’t teaching you what you need to know, or a college where you can’t do the work?

Prior posts:

This sounds like pontificating on your part…

You know what is on its last legs? Status quo education

Here is the next in my series of refuting this post of Anthony Cody’s:

He writes:

New and Improved Standards and Tests: Since 2010 we have heard that the answer to the terrible impact of No Child Left Behind was to create better tests, aligned with the new Common Core standards. Modern technology would allow the tests to be taken on computers, which would cleverly adjust themselves to students’ ability levels. These would be tests worth teaching to. Now the tests have arrived, and there are three huge problems. First, the tests themselves are confusing and unworkable, leading a growing number of states to reject them. Second, the tests require a huge investment in technology, since they must be taken online on computers. Third, when students take these tests, proficiency rates are plummeting, leading many to question their legitimacy. How can a test that labels upwards of 80% of students of color below proficient be considered a tool for advancing their civil rights? And when these tests are used to determine who receives a high school diploma, the results could be devastating. When a fourth grader can deliver a devastating statement like this, the Common Core tests cannot long survive.

If the tests and the class room material is mismatched then work on fixing it. Whats the alternative, no tests? I agree there is some sort of bizarre conspiracy among test makers and publishers but we need some kind of test. Why? Same reason we need some kind of standards. Because we are graduating students all over the country with varying levels of actual education. Case in point:

One of my coworkers in Massachusetts (yes I know the “education state”) said that where she grew up in MA, she was in the top of her class. But when she graduated and went to college, she couldn’t do the work and had to take remedial classes. Why would any student who was in the top of her class in high school expect to be in remedial classes in college? That would have to mean that the educational standards in her school district were awfully low. Is that what she deserves?

Maybe that’s why students don’t finish college, because perhaps they went to a school where they thought they were doing their best, where they thought they were getting the “American Dream” education and they did not. Worst of all, you won’t even notice that you are not getting a top quality education until it’s way past too late.

Huge investment in technology. I get that it is expensive and alot of smaller rural districts have trouble funding it. Even normal sized districts with the money still have to decide between big lease contracts or purchasing and software is expensive….but it has to be done and we just have to figure out how to do it. Students need access to computers and the internet to stay on par with the generational changes and to continue to engage students in ways that they expect to. School without computers is boring and kids know it.

Proficiency rates are plummeting because the tests are new and there may need to be some adjustments. But maybe, the kids WEREN’T learning as much as they should have the the tests are point that out. Blame the school district, the curriculum department for that problem. Classic defensive move to deflect from taking responsibility for poor educational standards – is to say that the tests are bad, our kids aren’t underperforming by that much! Maybe, they are. Best to get them on track NOW, ASAP. We’ve already wasted too much of their education.

He writes:

How can a test that labels upwards of 80% of students of color below proficient be considered a tool for advancing their civil rights?

Well, Anthony, I’m not going to speak for the folks whom you’ve taken this reference, but in my opinion, it demonstrates in concrete evidence that we are teaching those students curriculum that is NOT rigorous enough to expect them to compete with every other child. It proves we need to be doing more to properly educate those children. They have not been afforded their civil right to an excellent education.

And when these tests are used to determine who receives a high school diploma, the results could be devastating

This is true, but the heart of the argument doesn’t have anything to do with the tests themselves. It has to do with whether or not tests should be used to determine a diploma. However, if these students may not fare well in college because of their subpar education in their district, maybe one more year will help them achieve that. Or maybe not, maybe their best bet is to….I don’t even know – go back to a school that isn’t teaching you what you need to know, or a college where you can’t do the work? What would you choose?

That’s great that the child was brave enough to speak to the Board of Ed. More students should do it. But her case simply states that the curriculum and tests need to be better aligned, they don’t say anything about the basic use of tests in general.

It’s interesting Anthony, that you offer no solutions, simply hand picked situations that you think are going to sway some of your readers, who hopefully can do their own research after reading your work. However, you seem to strive to keep the “status quo” of course the educational establishment is doing just fine as it is.