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Idaho's Lowest Performing Schools Have Among The Highest Rates Of Poverty

apple, fruit
Emilie Ritter Saunders
Boise State Public Radio

The Idaho Department of Education released its school rankings last week for the 2012-2013 school year. Before the updated list came out, we told you there was a strong connection between poverty and low achieving schools based on the 2011-2012 rankings.

The Education Department uses a star system to rank schools. Five stars means the school is a high achiever, one star means schools must improve. This year’s star rankings illustrate schools with more low income students don't perform as well as more affluent schools.

If you look at Idaho’s schools based on how many students are considered “low income” it becomes clear immediately: four-and-five-star schools have little poverty compared to one-and-two-star schools. Thirty-eight percent of five-star schools have more than half of their students qualifying for free and reduced lunch. Sixty-three percent of one-star schools are in that camp.

5 star schools, poverty, low income, chart
Credit Data: Idaho Dept. of Education | Chart: Emilie Ritter Saunders

The trend is more apparent when you consider higher levels of poverty. Take schools where more than 70 percent of students are considered low income. That’s nearly half of one-star schools, but less than 10 percent of five-star schools. When you combine one-and-two-star schools, the share of low income students jumps to 78 percent.

five stars, education, low income, chart
Credit Data: Idaho Dept. of Education | Chart: Emilie Ritter Saunders

Kathleen Budge with Boise State’s College of Education says it’s no surprise that there’s a relationship between Idaho’s star ratings and poverty rates.

“We have made some progress as a nation closing racial achievement gaps," says Budge, "but the one that has persisted is the gap between kids who live in poverty and their more affluent peers.”

Budge says the kids who live in poverty, and the schools that teach them, start with serious disadvantages. She says low income schools can be high performing, but it takes a lot more work by teachers, districts and neighborhoods.

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