March 24, 2010
If you pay any attention at all to statewide news, you have certainly heard about the controversial new Wake County Board of Education majority and their actions to end the school system’s diversity policy. The policy in part bases attendance districts on socioeconomic factors of the students. The intent was to ensure that no school would be a “high-poverty” school as indicated by having no more than 40 percent of its students receiving free or reduced lunch.
Why is it important to avoid having high-poverty schools? Study after study has shown that high poverty schools make it more difficult for teachers to teach and students to learn. It is not clear exactly where the tipping point is, but evidence of a disparity in performance between schools can be seen right here in Moore County.
Let’s take a look at the North Carolina School Report Cards for two middle schools here in Moore County that are just a few miles apart. As defined by the State, “economically disadvantaged” (E.D.) students are those who receive free or reduced lunch.
West Pine Middle: -24% of the students at West Pine Middle are considered economically disadvantaged -Of the E.D. students, 61% pass both of the reading and math end-of-grade tests -Of the non- E.D . students, 92% pass both tests
Southern Middle: -52% of the students at Southern Middle are considered economically disadvantaged -Of the E.D. students, 39% pass both of the reading and math end-of-grade tests -Of the non- E.D. students, 77% pass both tests
What we see here are two Moore County schools just a few miles apart but with greatly differing performance on state tests. What’s the biggest difference between the two schools? Clearly, it is the fact that the MAJORITY of the students at Southern Middle are considered economically disadvantaged. It is not the purpose of this blog to get into the reasons why economically disadvantaged students typically perform lower than non-disadvantaged students, but I want to be clear that the research points to many factors such as nutrition, home environment, parental involvement, preschool education, etc. and NOT because of intelligence.
Let’s get back to the comparison. Notice how ALL students, regardless of income, perform better at West Pine than they do at Southern Middle. Unless you just want to assume that the students at West Pine are smarter than the students at Southern Middle, you have to look for other reasons. Ask the experts, including those in our own school system, and they’ll tell you the difference in performance between the schools is due to the differing student bodies.
(Blog Continued Below)