Relationships Between School Poverty and Student Achievement in Maine

January 15, 2014

Dr. Silvernail,

Thanks for your presentation to our committee last Thursday on your invaluable report ‘The Relationships Between School Poverty and Student Achievement in Maine.’

In committee, we never seem to have enough time for deeper inquiry, so I’ve noted some things that have stuck with me in re-reading.  I hope at some point we can have further discussion along these lines.  In the meantime, I wanted to share my questions with you.

  • What evidence can give us confidence that standardized test scores have validity as measures of ‘achievement’ in relation to overcoming the disadvantages of poverty?  Or are we using those measures only because they are what we have?  Ought we also to be measuring supplementary things like engagement, extracurricular participation, graduation or college matriculation rates?

  • Does the data represented in Fig 8 really represent a significant difference of economically-disadvantaged educational attainment in relation to school structure or is it just corroborating that the differential increases over time for the impoverished?  (Assume it does because chart presents test scores of just 8th graders rather than whole school.]

  • Given that K-8 schools are likely more common in less densely populated poorer districts and middle schools are more likely in more densely populated affluent districts, how are the test scores in Fig 8 also affected by district spending levels?

  • In a typical small Maine school, what is the overall common one-year fluctuation in test scores?  How does this compare to the relative range of a school’s test scores as a function of poverty or as a function of school spending?

  • How much does the correlation of per-pupil spending as a function of school size overlay the effect of school spending on economically disadvantaged students?

  • How could we test a hypothesis that the apparent lack of correlation between increasing spending and increasing economically disadvantaged test scores is masked by differential spending in poorer areas because of inefficiency of scale as opposed to actual differences in educational programming?

  • What would we learn from a chart of economically-disadvantaged test scores over a broader period of time arrayed against per-pupil spending adjusted for school size?

2 thoughts on “Relationships Between School Poverty and Student Achievement in Maine”

  1. Great questions. One more [Dr. Silvernail may have addressed this, but since I don’t listen to all the committee hearings/meetings/briefings, I don’t know]: how relevant are the outlier schools in demonstrating “high achievement” despite being in economically disadvantaged areas?

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