A special section in The Condition of Education 2010 paints a picture of the nation’s high-poverty schools in which students are most likely to be black or Hispanic, teachers are less qualified than their peers in low-poverty schools, average reading and math scores are far below those of students in low-poverty schools, and students are less likely to graduate and go to college.1
According to the report, 46 percent of Hispanic and 34 percent of black students attend high-poverty elementary schools, compared to only 5 percent of white students. At the secondary school level, 44 percent of students in high-poverty schools were Hispanic, compared to 38 percent for black students, but only 11 percent for white students. The percentage of students who were limited-English proficient (LEP) was also much higher in high-poverty schools than in low-poverty schools. For example, at the secondary level, about 16 percent of students attending high-poverty schools were identified as LEP, compared with 2 percent attending low-poverty schools.
The report also finds that teachers in high-poverty schools tend to have lower levels of educational attainment than their colleagues in low-poverty schools. For example, 38 percent of teachers working in high-poverty schools had a master’s degree as their highest level of educational attainment, compared to 52 percent of secondary school teachers in low-poverty schools. Additionally, teachers in high-poverty schools tend to be less experienced; 22 percent of teachers working in high-poverty schools had less than three years of teaching experience, compared to 15 percent of teachers in low-poverty schools.
On average, students from high-poverty schools did not perform as well on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) in reading or math as students from low-poverty schools. In 2009, eighth-grade students from low-poverty schools had an average reading score of 277, compared to 243 for students in high-poverty schools; this represents an achievement gap of 34 points that increased by only 1 point since 1998. In eighth-grade math, the achievement gap has narrowed only slightly, falling from 41 points in 1998 to 38 points in 2009.
Students in high-poverty schools also face more challenges in graduating from high school and enrolling in college. According to the report, only about 68 percent of twelfth graders in high-poverty secondary schools graduated from high school with a diploma, compared to 91 percent of twelfth graders in low-poverty schools. The report also finds that only 28 percent of students from high-poverty secondary schools enroll in college immediately after high school, compared to 52 percent of students from low-poverty secondary schools.
The report attributes these high school graduation and college enrollment numbers to a survey of school administrators. According to the results from that survey, the average percentage of seniors in high-poverty secondary schools who graduated with a diploma has declined by 18 percentage points—from 86 percent to 68 percent—since the 1999–2000 school year. Meanwhile, the percentage of twelfth graders who graduated with a diploma from low-poverty secondary schools declined only slightly from 92.4 percent to 91.2 percent.
Overall, 17 percent of public schools in the United States during the 2007–08 school year were considered high poverty, an increase of 5 percent since 1999–2000. Twenty percent of public elementary schools and 9 percent of public secondary schools in the United States are high poverty, according to the report.2
Produced by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), The Condition of Education is an annual report that presents indicators of important developments and trends in U.S. education. These indicators focus on participation and persistence in education, student performance and other measures of achievement, the environment for learning, and resources for education. The report includes data that was available by April 2010.
Browse or download The Condition of Education 2010 at http://nces.ed.gov/programs/coe/.
1 High-poverty schools are those in which 76 to 100 percent of students are eligible for free or reduced-price lunches through the National School Lunch program; low-poverty schools are those where 0 to 25 percent of students are eligible. Children from families with incomes at or below 130 percent of the poverty level ($28,665 in School Year 2009–10) are eligible for free meals; children from families with incomes that are above 130 and up to 185 percent of the poverty level ($40,793) are eligible for reduced-price meals.
2 The report notes that enrollment in the free and reduced-price lunch program (FRPL), which is voluntary, may be lower for eligible older students who have greater feelings of stigma associated with FRPL, greater feelings of independence, and more complaints about food quality and choices.