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Only 1.1 Percent of High Poverty Schools are Truly "High Flyers," Study Says

Susan Notes: This study confirms that educators are offering facts, not excuses, when they say poverty matters.

Education Policy Research Unit (EPRU)



Findings challenge Education Trust, Heritage Foundation studies

CONTACT: Douglas N. Harris (850)644-8166 (email) harris@coe.fsu.edu or
Alex Molnar (480) 965-1886 (email) epsl@asu.edu

TEMPE, Ariz. (Tuesday, March 21, 2006) -
Only 1.1 percent of high-poverty
schools consistently achieve at high levels on standardized tests, according
to "Ending the Blame Game on Educational Inequity: A Study of 'High Flying'
Schools and NCLB," a policy brief released by the Education Policy Studies
Laboratory at Arizona State University.

This finding directly challenges the results of policy studies published by
the Education Trust and Heritage Foundation which claim that 15.6 percent of
high-poverty schools are highly performing. According to study author and
Florida State University Professor Doug Harris, the Education Trust and
Heritage Foundations studies used questionable methodology to determine
"high flying" schools. For instance, if one grade in a high-poverty school
scored high on a standardized test in only one subject for one year,
Education Trust deemed the school "high flying." The study released today
examines test score gains and performance over time to identify schools that
achieve consistently at a high level.

Harris finds that the number of high-poverty schools reaching high
performance status is much lower than previously reported, and the cause of
this achievement gap is not mainly the fault of educators and
administrators--as Education Trust and Heritage Foundation suggest--but is a
function of the economic and social conditions facing the students enrolled
in these schools.

The federal No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) makes the same mistake, Harris
argues. The law provides performance incentives for schools to help all
students reach proficiency, but ignores the fact that, due to economic and
social conditions, students start school at very different levels of
readiness. As a result, the law holds schools responsible for factors
outside their control.

In addition, Harris finds that a low-poverty school is 22 times more likely
to be high performing than a high-poverty school. Equally alarming,
low-poverty, low-minority schools are 89 times more likely to be high
performing that high-poverty, high-minority schools.

Based on his findings, Harris recommends the following:

* Policy makers continue the recent focus on measurable student outcomes,
such as test scores, but redesign policies to hold educators accountable
only for those factors within their control;

* Policy makers take a comprehensive approach to school improvement that
starts in schools but extends into homes and communities, and addresses
basic disadvantages caused by poverty; and

* All educational stakeholders acknowledge that educational inequity is
caused by problems in both schools and communities, and avoid trying to
blame the problem on schools alone.

Find this document on the web at:

Douglas N. Harris
Assistant Professor, Florida State University

Alex Molnar, Professor and Director
Education Policy Studies Laboratory
(480) 965-1886


The Education Policy Research Unit (EPRU) conducts original research,
provides independent analyses of research and policy documents, and
facilitates educational innovation. EPRU facilitates the work of leading
academic experts in a variety of disciplines to help inform the public
debate about education policy issues.

Visit the EPRU website at http://educationanalysis.org

The Education Policy Studies Laboratory (EPSL) at Arizona State University
offers high-quality analyses of national education policy issues and
provides an analytical resource for educators, journalists, and citizens. It
includes the Arizona Education Policy Initiative (AEPI), the Commercialism
in Education Research Unit (CERU), the Education Policy Research Unit
(EPRU), and the Language Policy Research Unit (LPRU). The EPSL is directed
by Professor Alex Molnar.

Visit the EPSL website at http://edpolicylab.org

— Douglas N. Harris
Education Policy Research Unit (EPRU)



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