The question of whether schools affect student achievement has been debated ever since the publication of James C. Coleman’s landmark 1966 study, “Equality of Educational Opportunity” — commonly known as the Coleman Report.

Coleman was not an educator but a sociologist who pioneered the use of large data sets to ask and answer large policy questions. He and his colleagues came to a conclusion that shocked many people at the time — they found that schools have less of an effect on student achievement than the qualities that students bring with them.

Coleman didn’t find that schools have no effect. But the Coleman Report has led to a whole line of education research arguing that the characteristics students bring with them (socioeconomic background, education of their parents, nutrition, etc.) are paramount, and what schools do to improve academic achievement is secondary at best.

Read the full article on The Huffington Post Education.