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Saturday, April 2, 2011

Changing Socio-Economics in Portage

The poverty rate in Portage has increased over the last 10 years, from 4.8% to 9.1%. The percent of PPS students in the low socio-economic category has increased from 19% in 2007 to 24% in 2009. Since research shows a correlation between student achievement and socio-economic status, some have suggested flat test scores are a reasonable outcome of this change.

Although I do not believe poor children cannot learn or this outcome is reasonable, let’s assume for a moment that it is true. The premise would be that some number of poor children moved into PPS district from somewhere else making an impact on PPS achievement scores.

Here is a spreadsheet of my calculations on the change in the number of students in the low socio-economic group.

What this analysis shows is that PPS has approximately 400 more students considered low-socio-economic now than in the past. This represents about 5% of our student population, which could impact our academic achievement outcomes by as much as 5%. So looking at our MEAP scores, we could be 5% higher in any category if you follow this logic.

But here is where the logic breaks down. This scenario assumes we lost 550 students between 2007 and 2010, and gained 400 students, all of whom were in the low SES category! This is incredibly unlikely. To be absolutely certain, we would need to verify the transience data within our district, information not readily available.

What is much more likely is that some significant number of families in Portage suffered economic distress in the last couple years which changed their status. And I for one do not believe that our kids become less able to learn just because mom or dad lost their job. Of course, a job loss is a significant negative impact on families and we need to do all we can to provide support to our students. But for anyone to suggest that families’ lose their commitment to their children’s education simply because they suffer an economic setback, well, that just does not make sense to me.

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