An analysis by three education groups released Monday indicates that low income and poverty might have the most detrimental impact on learning.
The Ohio School Boards Association (OSBA), Ohio Association of School Business Officials (OASBO) and the Buckeye Association of School Administrators (BASA) released the report.
The causes for lower test scores include lacking resources at home and in schools, which are limited by their inability to squeeze local dollars from low-wealth communities, said Damon Asbury, director of legislative services for the Ohio School Boards Association.
“Certainly just the cultural environment in areas with high concentrations of poverty differ from areas where there is a high economic achievement model,” Asbury said.
“We also believe that there are relationships between performance and [school] resources, whether that be technology, Advanced Placement classes, advanced mathematics [or] multiple foreign language classes.”
Barbara Shaner, associate executive director for the school business officials, said the report released Monday should establish a baseline for tracking the progress of state initiatives, like new state report cards that use a letter-grade system, and efforts to close achievement gaps among poor and minority students, a tighter focus of the new report cards.
The Ohio Department of Education measures each school district’s academic success in two ways: how well students perform on tests and whether a student makes yearly progress and is ready for the next grade.
A Beacon Journal analysis of yearly progress found a similar disparity along socioeconomic lines.
Pupils who gained more than two years’ worth of learning in a single school year typically live in communities with less than a 33 percent student poverty and median household incomes toppling $38,000 annually. These schools received an ‘A’ for yearly progress on the August report cards.
On average, schools that received an ‘F,’ however, are located in communities with a 60 percent student poverty rate and median household incomes falling below $29,000.
Local schools that posted the highest gains in yearly progress include Hudson, Jackson, Aurora, Wadsworth, Nordonia Hills, Green and Norton. Each has less than 30 percent of students living in poverty and median incomes higher than $35,000, according to ODE statistics.
There are some exceptions. Plain and Coventry, with more than 42 percent of students in poverty and average incomes less than $32,000, are also among the highest local performers in students making yearly progress.
Plain Superintendent Brent May said curriculum and instruction must evolve with any diverse student population, like that of the rural, suburban and urban portions of his district.
“There’s a lot of things we can handle in the four walls of a classroom. There’s a lot that we have to tackle out in the community,” May said.
Educators in Plain host community meetings and make home visits. May also stresses the importance of not bouncing a child from one school to another.
He said teachers sometimes have to step outside the classroom to combat poverty. But while he pushes a “hands-on approach,” he has no hand in the amount of state dollars he receives to fund programs to engage the community.
That’s partly what Shaner hopes to accomplish by highlighting the disparity among rich and poor students. Educators must be more vocal in advocating for low-income students and communities, she said.
Shaner plans to use the analysis to assess the state’s new school funding formula, which — like previous formulas — earmarks dollars for poor children; however, with limited resources, the formula caps state dollars for many of the poorest districts.
“We wanted to make sure that we have good data to make decisions in the future about where best to put our resources,” Shaner said.
She encourages lawmakers to take a holistic approach to tackling child poverty.
“We have a disadvantaged pupil component within the funding formula, and I think we’ll need to evaluate if it’s funded at the appropriate level or not,” she said.
Doug Livingston can be reached at 330-996-3792 or firstname.lastname@example.org.