Quite a few Ed Deformers say that Poverty Isn’t Destiny. They say that it doesn’t matter if a child has been subjected to lead poisoning, separation from parents, violent or otherwise cruel child abuse, inadequate nutrition, and has lacked dental or health care and the love and care of a family during the first, crucial years. All it takes is for a Bright Young Thing fresh out of college to work her butt off for two years before she goes to work for a bank — and all of those handicaps will be overcome, with no extra dollars invested, and maybe even less!
Or maybe not.
Lots of teachers have been working their butts off for many decades, doing their best, believe it or not (for the most part).
two three graphs from Wisconsin that show how close the connection between the poverty rates and student achievement levels, at all of their schools for which they provide data. My data come from here and are for SY 2011-2012. In fact, you can download the entire spreadsheet for the state of Wisconsin if you click on this link:
both all three graphs, the percentage of students at the schools is along the horizontal (X) axis. In the first two, the average achievement score at the school is along the vertical (Y) axis.
In this first graph, Wisconsin uses a 100-point scale for overall student achievement.
That is an incredibly strong correlation between poverty levels and student achievement. The fewer the proportion of poor students at a school, the better the achievement scores at that school.
I had Excel compute two correlation “trend” lines – one straight, in black, and one curved, in red following a third-degree polynomial, since it looks like we have a serious “Matthew effect” going on here. In either case, the R-squared and R values are very elevated, showing that, in fact, poverty is in fact destiny for a lot of kids.
The next graph is for reading only, but it shows essentially the same trend. School reading scores go from 0 to 50.
There are very few real-life correlations between two entities stronger than what you see in these two graphs.
This next graph is a little different, for two reasons: the y-axis is math, and it’s the percent of students deemed ‘proficient’ on whatever test Wisconsin is using. It also shows a very strong correlation.