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Posted at 12:07 PM ET, 05/28/2010

1 in 6 U.S. students in high-poverty schools

By Valerie Strauss

A government analysis of U.S. schools shows that one in six public school students attend high poverty schools and that the percentage of high-poverty schools has significantly increased over the past decade.

It also confirms what we’ve long known: student achievement at high-poverty schools is lower than at other public schools.

The analysis of high-poverty schools was part of the 2010 Condition of Education, an annual report just released by the Education Department’s National Center for Education Statistics. The analysis looks at the latest available data on public schools.

Here are the conclusions from the analysis on high-poverty schools. High poverty is identified as those schools where 76 percent to 100 percent of the student enrollment is eligible for free or reduced-price meals. The data comes from 2007-08, the latest year for which nationwide information is available.

*One in six public school students attended a high-poverty school.

*Twenty percent of all public elementary schools and 9 percent of public secondary schools were considered high-poverty schools, compared with 15 percent and 5 percent respectively in 1999-2000.

*The overall percentage of high-poverty schools increased from 12 percent in 1999–2000 to 17 percent in 2007–08. There is some evidence that this increase was at least partly due to increased program participation rates, since from 1999 to 2007 the overall poverty rate for children under 18 increased by a smaller amount, from 17 to 18 percent.

*The reading achievement gap between eighth-grade students in low-poverty vs. high-poverty schools was 34 points, on a 500 point scale, in 2009, and the mathematics achievement gap was 38 points.

*About 28 percent of high school graduates from high-poverty schools attended four-year colleges after graduation, compared with 52 percent of high school graduates from low-poverty schools.

*About 14 percent of students attending high-poverty elementary schools were white, 34 percent were black, 46 percent were Hispanic, 4 percent were Asian/Pacific Islander, and 2 percent were American Indian/Alaska Native.

*At low-poverty elementary schools, student enrollment was on average 75 percent white, 6 percent black, 11 percent Hispanic, 7 percent Asian/Pacific Islander, and 1 percent American Indian/Alaska Native.

*High-poverty elementary schools were primarily regular schools (98 percent); special education schools (schools that serve children with disabilities) and alternative schools (schools that serve students at risk for school failure) each made up 1 percent or less of high-poverty elementary schools. The distribution of school types for low-poverty elementary schools was similar to the distribution for high-poverty elementary schools.

*Among high-poverty secondary schools, 73 percent were classified as regular schools, 22 percent were alternative schools, 4 percent were special education schools, and 2 percent were vocational schools (schools that provide technical or career training). Among low-poverty secondary schools, about 83 percent were classified as regular schools, 14 percent were alternative schools, 2 percent were vocational schools, and 1 percent were special education schools.

Here are some other findings in the 2010 Condition of Education:

* Between 1988 and 2008, the percentage of Hispanic public school students increased from 11 to 22 percent. Largely as a result of this increase, the percentage of white students decreased from 68 to 55 percent over those two decades.

* From 1999 to 2008, the number of students enrolled in charter schools has nearly quadrupled, from 340,000 to 1.3 million students. During this period, the percentage of all public schools that were charter schools increased from 2 percent to 5 percent.

* In 2007-08, some 61 percent of teachers worked in districts that offered at least one type of pay incentive, such as cash bonuses or salary increases. These incentives are designed to recruit or retain teachers in less desirable locations or for positions in fields with shortages, and to reward for national board certification or excellence in teaching.

* The percentage of 25- to 29-year-olds who completed a bachelor’s degree increased from 17 percent in 1971 to 29 percent in 2009. During this same period, bachelor’s degree attainment more than doubled for blacks (from 7 to 19 percent) and Hispanics (from 5 to 12 percent) and nearly doubled for whites (from 19 to 37 percent).

*The number of U.S. college students studying abroad has quadrupled in the past two decades, from 62,000 in 1987-88 to more than 260,000 students in 2007-08 —or about 15 out of every 100 students in a bachelor’s degree program. China is now the fifth most popular destination, and business/management majors now represent an increasing share of those studying abroad.

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By Valerie Strauss  | May 28, 2010; 12:07 PM ET
Categories:  Equity, Research  | Tags:  2010 condition of education, analysis on high-poverty schools, condition of education, data on schools, equity, high-poverty schools, percentage of high-poverty schools, school  
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Poverty is a GLOBAL issue, not just within the US:

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Rising poverty in Japan
While many people enjoyed a trip abroad during Golden Week, some in Japan languished homeless and hungry. Poverty is becoming a major problem that is threatening the basic social fabric of this nation.

In a July 2006 report, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development said Japan had one of the highest rates of relative poverty — the percentage of the population that lives on one-half or less of the median income — among the OECD countries. Another OECD report showed that relative poverty in Japan in the mid-2000s, at around 15 percent, was the second-worst among the OECD nations following that of the United States at around 17 percent.


What is particularly worrisome is the replication of poverty as children from low-income families are unable to benefit from higher education. The government needs to work out effective support measures for low-income families, especially single-mother households, to prevent the nation heading into what members of the government's Council and Economic and Fiscal Policy have termed a "society of lost hope."

This statement from above is especially interesting:

"The government needs to work out effective support measures for low-income families, especially single-mother households, to prevent the nation heading into what members of the government's Council and Economic and Fiscal Policy have termed a "society of lost hope."

Posted by: TwoSons | May 28, 2010 1:45 PM | Report abuse

I want to thank you in several ways for showcasing this. Firstly, the Education Trust defined high-poverty as 50% poor, when actually that is just average. And they never apologiozed and they even ridiculed Education Week as "Sociology Week" for addressing these issues, saying that educators were just trying to shift blame from themselves to poverty (which hasn't been fought effectively)

Think of how much better it would be to abandon the blame game and shift our focus from the 10% of lowest performing schools to the 17% of high-poverty. The IES stats show that there are only about 650 high-poverty schools with more than 1000.
We should have started first with those extreme concentrations of poverty, breaking them up into community schools that served their entire needs as human beings, allowing for respectful learning cultures.

A huge percentage of those schools, I bet, are unable to enforce their behavioral or attendance policies because alternative schools are full. And that's because alternative slots are kept artificially low for fear that educators will just kick out their challenging students and warehouse them. By my calculation, there are only 559 or so high-poverty alternative schools, much fewer than rich alternative schools where poverty below 25%.

By means of comparison, the US has twice as many community health centers.

How much would it take to provide the same quantity and quality of alternative services to poor kids as we do kids in rich schools?

If we focused first on high poverty in schools, we could obey the maxim "You are not the problem, I'm not the problem, The PROBLEM is the PROBLEM.

I understand that that would not solve the issue of poor kds in other schools. For that we could go back to the potential strenght of NCLB - that was undermined by its accountablity. Disaggregate data for a consumer reports like Diane Ravitch recommends. A decade ago as more poor kids moved to the suburbs and were hidden by averages, don't you think the educators in those schools would have appreciated help in understanding and addressing those challenges? Wouldn't they have welcomed professional developent and help from social workers, health workers etc?

Posted by: johnt4853 | May 30, 2010 10:53 AM | Report abuse

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