The Transylvania Times -

Poverty And Report Cards


September 13, 2018

The state of North Carolina has released its school report cards for last year, and once again the report cards reveal there is a direct link between poverty and academic growth and achievement. In fact, poverty is easily the single greatest variable when it comes to predicting whether or not a school or school system is performing well or poorly.

The state government itself has publicly stated the connection. Part of the state’s executive summary states, “Schools with a higher percentage of economically disadvantaged students earned fewer As and Bs, and more Cs, Ds, and Fs.”

That is an understatement. There is a direct correlation between school grades and the percentage of children living in poverty. The more students who are economically disadvantaged, the greater chance their schools or school systems do not score well.

For example, 80 percent of the schools that received a grade of A had student populations in which 0-40 percent of the students were economically disadvantaged. On the other end of the spectrum, 98 percent of the schools that received a grade of F had student populations in which 41-100 percent were economically disadvantaged.

There are exceptions, and Transylvania County is one. The county ranked 22nd in the state for grade level proficiency. However, according to the Public School Forum, the county ranks 73 on child poverty measures. That ranking is based on 31 percent of the children here living in poverty and 54 percent of the students qualifying for free and reduced lunch. It is remarkable that the Transylvania County school system ranked 51 spots higher academically than it should have based upon the number of economically disadvantaged children in the county.

While a child’s economic status certainly plays a large role in determining one’s academic success, there are multiple other factors. School administrators, teachers and staff certainly make a difference, as does parental involvement and community support. In this county, we are fortunate to have good school staff. Yes, there are administrators who make mistakes and maybe a few teachers who should be in another profession, but for the most part, we have good, conscientious administrators, teachers and staff.

We also have a supportive community. There are many people and organizations that provide support for students. Organizations such as Rise & Shine and the Cindy Platt Boys & Girls Club provide afterschool academic assistance. Individual volunteers also provide their expertise in programs like the incredibly successful TIME science program at Brevard High. Other organizations provide school supplies, clothing and other items that can impact a student’s education. The local county government also supports education. The county ranks high in the amount of money it provides to the local school system. There are different opinions as to whether or not the county has provided enough money for certain items in given years, but the county has done a fairly good job of helping the school system fill financial gaps created by cuts in state and federal funding.

Unfortunately, many of the poor counties in this state have not been able to locally compensate for cuts in state and federal funding. And in many of those counties, the residents lack the educational and financial resources to provide the supplemental support their children so desperately need. Indeed, if one were to visit some of the public schools in the rural parts of eastern North Carolina and compare them with some of the public schools in the affluent suburbs of Charlotte and Raleigh, it would be strikingly apparent without even walking in the doors why the former are receive failing grades and the latter receive As or Bs.

School report cards may serve a purpose. However, North Carolina residents should realize that the report cards issued by the state are often a greater reflection of a student body’s economic background and less a reflection of the effort administrators, teachers and students are making in their schools. When it comes to education, money matters – both inside and outside the classroom.


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