Similar Students, Different Results: Why Do Some Schools Do Better?

EdSource
October 2005

Old News: The higher the percentage of low-income students a school serves, the lower the school's overall achievement scores. New News: Schools with high numbers of low-income students aren't all the same. Of course, new news is old news to those who've watched over the years as high-poverty, high-performance schools such as the KIPP Academies outscore by wide margins schools with similar demographics. For those who haven't watched, you might want to have a glance at EdSource's new study. EdSource, a California-based education policy group, noticed that among high-poverty schools in California, academic achievement was far from consistent. The top-performing schools in this demographic outscored the bottom schools by some 250 points (on a 200-1000 point scale) on the state's academic performance index (API). To find out why, EdSource polled principals and teachers at 257 state elementary schools serving similar populations of high-poverty children to try to determine what most affected student achievement. The results show schools that 1) prioritized student achievement, 2) implemented a coherent, standards-based curriculum, 3) used assessment data to improve both student achievement and teacher instruction, and 4) ensured teachers and students have the requisite resources (books, supplemental material, etc.) greatly outperformed those schools that did not. What had less affect on student achievement? Involving parents in schools, teacher collaboration, and professional development. What's old is new, and what's new, is old. Read the report here.

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