Take Two Schools: Add Students of Poverty to One and Middle Class Kids to the Other. Different Results? Usually … but not always.

The University of Southern Maine has just published a study that documents the strong connection between school poverty and student achievement in Maine.

Most interesting about the study is not the announcement (which is hardly news to most of us) that schools with a large proportion of low-income students have fewer high-achieving students than schools with a small proportion of low-income students.

Intriguing and hopeful both is the study’s important conclusion that some schools prove the exception – their students are poor but their achievement is relatively high. The study encourages using the example of such schools to help less successful schools reach their students more effectively. Makes sense to me. You’d think educators would be scrambling to go over the findings of this study.

Here’s the reality: those who most definitely need to heed studies like this one – school board members; superintendents; principals in low-income school districts – will probably not even read them. In some districts all these people are too busy with infighting  to read studies about schools. In other districts budget woes absorb the attention of everyone. Certainly most teachers are too busy rushing to deal with the day-to-day to confront questions like how schools should be changed.

The bottom line is that parents and taxpayers need to force their representatives – their school board members, their superintendents, the administrators of their schools – to face the question that matters most: why are some schools with the same kind of population and the same basic amount of money more successful than others.



Kathreen Harrison

About Kathreen Harrison

Kathreen Harrison is a public school teacher in Maine. She has a master’s degree from Bank Street College of Education and a bachelor’s degree from Harvard College. She has worked in a variety of schools in New York and Maine in a number of capacities – French teacher, gifted and talented teacher, elementary school teacher, and curriculum coordinator for island schools. She has lived in Maine for 20 years and has a particular interest in school reform.