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Report Links Poverty To Poor Student Academic Peformance

Groups representing Ohio school boards, administrators and treasurers have released an analysis of data collected under the state's new assessment system that confirms the link between poverty and student performance. But there’s disagreement on how to deal with the study’s conclusions. Ohio Public Radio's Karen Kasler reports.

An analysis of recent state report card data shows a connection between student performance and poverty. Damon Asbury with the Ohio School Boards association says a study done for his group and other public school lobbying organizations of the student performance index shows the fewer the financial resources a student has, the lower that student’s performance is likely to be – with the converse also holding true.
“Now obviously, there are successful students in all types of districts and struggling students in all types, but preponderantly, it shows that this relationship is strong.”

But Asbury says the connection between performance and poverty is not an excuse for low-wealth districts – nor are the report’s conclusions predictors of potential for students. He says the study just shows that there are other things that affect whether students can meet their potential, and that districts where students have fewer resources need more funding to deal with those factors.
“We have Rhodes Scholars coming out of very difficult backgrounds. What we do think that, on the whole though – those kind of students, if they had access to even more resources, would do even better, and the students that maybe aren’t quite as able to overcome those hardships need additional resources.”

Over at the conservative think tank the Buckeye Institute, Greg Lawson finds the study compelling but not necessarily surprising.
“What is interesting is that this actually showcases that it’s not necessarily the amount of money that the state is spending on school funding that is indicative of performance index score, but that there’s a bunch of other external, socio-economic issues.”

Lawson says the results seem to lead to a somewhat obvious suggestion that the state needs to send more money to lower-wealth districts.
“This idea that you can just tweak it a little bit more and if you throw, what? Another $5,000? $6,000? $10,000? What’s the amount that’s going to get it fair? There are other issues – there’s family stability issues and things like that. And a lot of that deals with economic issues for sure – jobs and those kinds of problems that are out there. This would seem to show that we want to make sure we get people jobs.”

Lawson says the Buckeye Institute, which supports school choice and vouchers, will soon put out its own study showing no correlation between state and local funding and student performance.

Jim has been with WCBE since 1996. Before that he worked as a reporter at another Columbus radio station, and for three newspapers in Southwest Florida.