Friday, December 07, 2012

Student Achievement - It's the Poverty Stupid!

I've been having a running "discussion" (AGAIN!)  with some Cult of Con Indoctrinants over at who insist on blaming Racine Unified (where I was educated, thank you!) generally and the teachers specifically for the poor student achievement. They think doing away with RUSD is the answer. I have been arguing, as I have in the past, that if one only looks at where these types outcomes prevail, it is pattently obvious that it is the result of concentrated poverty and all the social ills that go with it. Well that doesn't fit with the Cons Pre-Set Blame & Belief Buttons, so they will hear none of it.

As it happens I was listening to Wisconsin Public Radio (one of our crown jewels!) the other day and what do I hear? The Forward Institute has just released a study that shows School Report Card scores issued by the Department of Public Instruction are closely linked with poverty (Who Knew!). AND that Wisconsin's public schools out perform charter schools even when adjusting for the poverty of the students. Take THAT would be Educational Profiteers!

Of course in true Con fashion and unable to address the substance of the study, they immediately attacked the source. But I suppose some must close their minds to "conserve" what's in there.

Press Release Excerpt: Currently more than 4 in 10 school age children in Wisconsin are defined as poor or “economically disadvantaged,” up from about 2 in 10 a decade ago. A student from a family qualifying for “free or reduced price lunch” is considered economically disadvantaged for the purposes of DPI scores – over 350,000 children in Wisconsin schools.

Based on data from the new Department of Public Instruction (DPI) Report Cards, our study showed a clear link between low Report Card scores and economically disadvantaged students who already have significant barriers to educational prosperity. Those schools with higher numbers of economically disadvantaged students had significantly lower scores on the Report Cards.
The study results show that nearly half of the Report Card score variation from school to school can be explained by the variation in poverty levels from school to school.

Since higher enrollments of economically disadvantaged students are a significant factor in the scores on the DPI Report Card, current proposals to tie school funding and teachers’ salaries to Report Card scores would unfairly punish schools in high poverty districts. As the study clearly shows, a very significant factor affecting Report Card scores is poverty, something which is outside the control of teachers and schools.

The data also revealed that contrary to the assumptions that non-traditional charter schools would be more effective through creating competitive choice, Wisconsin’s public schools significantly outperformed charter schools overall. This finding was especially evident in those schools with high poverty enrollment.

In the last four years, public school budgets have been cut by over $1 billion, while in 2012 alone, Wisconsin taxpayers provided $143.6 million to charter schools, the highest amount in state history. These fund increases did not translate into charter school performance over the three years of Report Card data collected. The Report Card data indicates public schools continue to better educate Wisconsin children than the non-traditional charter schools. Charter schools are underperforming at the core level of their mission – student excellence and achievement, without the taxpayer accountability of public schools.

These findings are important, especially as policy makers look for ways to provide the best educational opportunities for Wisconsin’s children while being mindful of the economic burdens on struggling families. Based on the high rate of Wisconsin school children living in poverty and the clear effects of poverty on education, this study recommends policymakers enhance educational opportunities for our children, and save taxpayer money by redirecting educational funds to the schools most effective at meeting the current needs of Wisconsin children, Wisconsin’s public schools.

1 comment:

Sean Cranley said...

More evidence on poverty and education: EXCERPT: The educational disadvantage for the poor is apparent in international exams such as the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA). In the most recent PISA exam, the United States placed average to below average when compared to other developed countries in reading, science, and math. These are the statistics certain politicians like to quote when they speak of “reforming” our education system. However, closer inspection of the numbers reveals that “the average American PISA reading score for higher-income schools exceeded that of all other developed countries while the average score for lower-income American schools was far lower. In fact, the PISA scores by America students were more influenced by their parents’ economic backgrounds than any other OECD country.” (“America’s Poverty-Education Link,” Howard S. Friedman) In other words, our educational system is not in dire need of reforming, but it is definitely not working for the children whose families are in poverty.

A side effect of the way Report Card scores are calculated penalizes schools with more economically disadvantaged students. For example, scores are lowered 5 full points because of lower attendance rates and another 5 points if dropout rates are more than 6 percent. Each teacher’s Personal Performance Review Score is now partially tied to their school’s Report Card score. Many districts are also moving to tie teacher pay to their personal scores in the belief this will make teachers more accountable. As a consequence, experienced high-quality teachers are likely to gravitate towards the schools and districts which have the best facilities and the lowest poverty — where their score and pay is not penalized. Alongside several years of budget cuts to education, these ingredients are not likely to encourage the best and brightest to enter or stay with educating our youth. Policies that indirectly favor wealthy districts are not a recipe for success for our nation or our children.