Effective schools aren’t the ones you expect

The most effective school districts in Indiana aren’t the affluent suburban districts that produce the highest test scores year after year. Instead many are smallish, rural districts that don’t get much attention outside of their own communities.

That’s according to data from Stanford professor Sean Reardon, whose research shows how well the nation’s school districts did at improving test scores over a five-year period.

The results “defy how we typically think about wealth and education in America,” the New York Times said in a report on Reardon’s work. Students in affluent districts do tend to score higher on standardized tests; but when it comes to year-to-year growth, schools doing a good job are nearly as likely to serve many poor students.

“Many districts with high average test scores have low growth rates, and vice versa,” Reardon writes in a working paper. “And many low-income districts have above average growth rates.”

In Indiana, the standouts include Elkhart, Brownsburg, Middlebury, South Vermillion, Blackford County, Southwest (Sullivan County), Speedway, South Adams and Eastern Greene. Other than exemplary student growth, there’s nothing obvious that those districts have in common.

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