NWEA Study Finds Dramatic Difference in Relationship Between School Poverty and Student Achievement vs. Student Growth
Portland, Ore. – A new study from NWEA, the not-for-profit provider of assessment solutions, reveals fresh insights into the relationship between school poverty and school academic performance. The study provides compelling evidence for greater transparency of school achievement and growth measures, and a renewed focus on how we evaluate school effectiveness, with an emphasis on an appropriate balance of performance measures.
Evaluating the Relationships Between Poverty and School Performance, conducted by Andy Hegedus, Ed.D., Research Consulting Director at NWEA, finds that while there is a strong relationship between schools with high rates of poverty and low student achievement, as expected, there is a weak relationship between schools with high rates of poverty and low student academic growth. These findings suggest that substantial reliance on achievement measures to evaluate school performance in federal and state education policy fails to adequately recognize schools that are producing excellent growth and biases the evaluation system against schools serving populations typically disenfranchised.
Among the other notable findings:
- There is a broad distribution of growth across the entire school achievement distribution. There are both low and high-achieving schools where students learn a lot, and there are schools where they do not.
- Sixty percent of the highest poverty schools have generated above-average levels of student growth. Conversely, many schools evaluated as high achieving are realizing less than average academic growth in their students.
The range of median student achievement between the typical lowest and highest poverty schools varies by about 44 percentile points, where growth only varies by 4 percentile points over the same range of school poverty.
Conducted in support of NWEA’s longstanding commitment to pursuing research on education equity, the study looked at anonymized MAP Growth data from 1,500 randomly selected schools. The MAP Growth data set, along with the achievement and growth norms, are particularly suited for this research; the assessment measures K-12 student achievement irrespective of grade level, thus allowing for a more precise and representative evaluation of student learning. Hegedus investigated the relationships between student achievement and growth measures and school-level poverty variables, including free and reduced-priced lunch status.
The full study is available at nwea.org. Online data visualizations providing interactive ways for people to examine their own questions related to the study are also available as supplemental material.