The mathematics performance of 4th-graders in high-poverty public schools was lower than that of their peers in low-poverty public schools.
The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) collects background information on students, teachers, and schools, permitting analysis of student achievement relative to the poverty level of public schools, measured as the percentage of students eligible for free or reduced-price lunch through the National School Lunch program. In 2005, the average score on the 4th-grade mathematics assessment decreased as the percentage of students in the school who were eligible for the school lunch program increased. For example, students in the highest poverty public schools (those with more than 75 percent of students eligible for the school lunch program) had an average score of 221, compared with an average score of 255 for students in the lowest poverty public schools (those with 10 percent or less of students eligible) (see table 15-1).
This negative relationship between average achievement in mathematics and school-level poverty occurs when the performance of students who are eligible for the school lunch program is considered separately from that of other students. For example, the achievement gap between the average scores of 4th-graders in the lowest and highest poverty schools was 20 points among those eligible for the school lunch program, and 25 points among those not eligible.
Comparing schools with different concentrations of poverty reveals that the highest poverty public schools in 2005 differed from other public schools in terms of particular student characteristics. For example, they had the lowest percentage of White students, the highest percentage of Black and Hispanic students, and the highest percentage of students who reported always speaking a language other than English at home. They also had the highest percentage of 4th-graders who were taught by a teacher with less than 5 years of teaching experience (see tables 15-1 and 15-2).
A school’s poverty concentration also led to differences in terms of school characteristics. Fourth-graders in the highest poverty public schools were more likely than their peers in public schools with lower levels of poverty to have a full-time mathematics specialist and to spend the most amount of class time on mathematics (7 hours or more per week).
Note 1: Commonly Used Variables
Note 4: National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP)
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