Test results show disparity in education

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(Host) State officials say new school assessment results clearly show that students from lower income families score as much as 25% lower than middle and upper income students. Deputy Education Commissioner Bud Meyer says it’s an issue that the state is trying to address.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports.

(Kinzel) State education officials released the latest round of assessment data on Friday. The results show that, while elementary school students in Vermont are doing a good job meeting standards in math and reading, there’s a drop off in performance as the students get older. The results also show a significant gap in performance between students from lower income families and all other students.

The yard stick to measure poverty is whether or not a family qualifies for the federal school lunch program. In Vermont, roughly 37% of all students qualify for this program – it’s one of the highest rates in the country.

Deputy Education commissioner Bud Meyers says the test results of students in this group run between 15% and 28% below more affluent students. Meyers says it’s trend that needs to be addressed in the near future:

(Meyers) “Students who come from families that are challenged economically simply do not perform as well on our standardized tests. They don’t graduate from high school at the same rate as other kids, they don’t get jobs at the same rate as other kids, and so there’s something here that needs a lot of attention. And that frankly is the major focus of No Child Left Behind.”

(Kinzel) Meyers says the state does send teams into schools that have a large percentage of lower income children to see if there are ways to boost student performance and he notes that test scores are improving in those schools that are keeping portfolios of a student’s work over a number of years:

(Meyers) “That’s another example of opportunity to learn that schools can do something about that has an effect and so when we say there’s just not much we can do with the challenges of poor children or students with disabilities to change the profile of performance on these standardized tests the answer is that’s not true that’s really possible to make those changes.”

(Kinzel) Meyers says the test results also show a gender gap in student performance. In high school math tests, male students score considerably higher than female students but the opposite is true in reading and writing assessments.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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