The Indiana Department of Education has refused to disclose what grades Indiana schools would have received in 2015 if it weren’t for “hold harmless” legislation approved by lawmakers – so I can’t do the analysis of how grades correlate with school poverty that I did in previous years.
The best I can come up with is to show how school wealth and poverty correlate with passing rates on the spring 2015 ISTEP exams. And as you’d probably expect, they match up pretty closely.
As when looking at grades, I divided school corporations into four quartiles on the basis of the percentage of students who qualified for free or reduced-price meals. Passing rates all around were much lower than in previous years – remember that Indiana students took a new, more difficult version of ISTEP in 2015 – but the pattern was fairly clear.
- In the top quartile, the schools with the fewest poor students, passing rates for nearly all the schools ranged from 50 percent to 80 percent, with just a few outliers. The median figure – with half the values higher and half lower – was 61 percent.
- In the second quartile, passing rates ranged from 43 percent to 68 percent. Most were between 50 percent and 60 percent. The median was 55 percent.
- In the third quartile, passing rates ranged from 35 percent to 66 percent. The median was 50.5 percent.
- In the bottom quartile, made up of the highest-poverty schools, passing rates ranged from 22 percent to 55 percent. The median was 44.3 percent.
A rough representation of the quartiles looks like this:
As expected, there’s considerable overlap between the groups – schools at the top of the bottom quartile are a lot like schools at the bottom of the third quartile, after all — but the groups line up along the test-score axis, poor schools at the left and affluent schools at the right.
There’s nothing new or surprising here, of course. It’s just another illustration of the well-known fact that test scores are largely an indication of socioeconomic status and only secondarily a reflection of school effectiveness.