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2010 Spotlight

High-Poverty Public Schools

What types of schools are high-poverty schools?

In 2007–08, there were 16,122 schools that were considered high-poverty schools (see table A-24-1). That is, in these schools, 76–100 percent of the student enrollment was eligible for free or reduced-price meals. The 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 (NCES-2010-013, table 21).

The percentage of high-poverty schools varied by school level in 2007–08, as 20 percent of all public elementary schools (12,971 schools) were high-poverty, compared with 9 percent of secondary schools (2,142) and 18 percent of combined schools (1,009). 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 (see table A-24-2). The distribution of school types for low-poverty elementary schools was similar to the distribution for high-poverty elementary schools.

Compared to both high- and low-poverty elementary schools, high- and low-poverty secondary schools included larger percentages of special education and alternative 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.

For more information, visit the List of Figures.

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