Percentage of Poverty Children in School Dramatically Increases

The U.S. Department of Education  special report on high poverty schools  which was included in the 2010 Condition of Education study found that the percent of high poverty schools rose from 12 to 17 percent between the 1999-2000 and 2007-2008 school years, even before the current recession was fully felt. The percentage of public schools where more than three quarters of students are eligible for free or reduced price lunch — a key indicator of poverty — has increased in the past decade, and children at these schools are less likely to attend college or be taught by teachers with advanced degrees.  In all, there were 16,122 schools considered high-poverty.

Students at these schools face a number of disadvantages:

— A smaller percentage of teachers and high-poverty elementary and secondary schools have earned at least a master’s degree and a regular professional certification than those in low poverty schools.

— They are less likely to graduate from high school; on average, 68 percent of 12th grade students in high poverty-schools graduated with a diploma in 2007-2008, compared to 91 percent at low poverty schools. The numbers have actually gotten worse for students at high poverty schools, dropping from 86 to 68 percent since 1999-2000.

— After graduating from a high poverty school, 28 percent enrolled in a four-year institution, compared to 52 percent of graduates from low poverty schools. And while college enrollment has increased by 8 percent since 1999-2000 for graduates from higher income schools, the numbers have remained stable for those in poor schools.

Cities were more likely to have a larger percentage of high-poverty schools. About 40 percent of city elementary schools fell into that category in 2007-2008, compared to 15 percent in towns and 13 percent in suburbs, according to the study. The report found a similar trend at the secondary school level.

The South and West had a higher percentage of public elementary schools that were high poverty than the Northeast and Midwest, 24 percent compared to 16 and 12 percent, respectively. Mississippi had the highest percentage nationwide — 52 percent of its public elementary schools are considered high poverty. Louisiana, New Mexico, the District of Columbia and California were also pointed out as having higher percentages of low income elementary schools.

Students at high poverty schools are more likely to be minorities. Hispanic students, for example, made up 46 percent of students at high poverty elementary schools and 11 percent of students at low poverty schools in the 2007-2008 school year. White students made up 14 percent of students at high poverty elementary schools, and 75 percent at low poverty elementary schools.

High poverty schools also have a larger percentage of students with limited English proficiency.

Students at these schools had lower average scores on the National Assessment of Education Progress in reading and math than those at low poverty schools, though in some cases the achievement gap has decreased.

At this time when states need to balance their budgets and the federal government keeps on printing money, we as citizens need to remind our legislators that while children do not vote, educators do!  Schools are increasingly dealing with children who need more services and schools are expected to provide them.