#1 factor impeding academics: Poverty

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BELOIT — Statistics show economic factors largely determine success or failure in the School District of Beloit.

Additionally, statistics based on test scores show minorities tend to do worse than their white counterparts, both when comparing students considered economically disadvantaged, and also when poverty factors are eliminated.

Although poverty is related to lower test scores among all racial groups, data from the 2015-2016 Forward exams for English language arts and math show that minorities who are not economically disadvantaged still tend to fall behind their white peers.

More than 70 percent of students in the School District of Beloit are considered disadvantaged. A four-member family with a household income at or below $44,955 annually is considered disadvantaged. A two-member family with an income at or below $29,637 meets the disadvantaged criteria.

According to the 2015-2016 Forward math assessment, 43.8 percent of non-disadvantaged white students were proficient while 22 percent of disadvantaged white students were proficient.

However, 16.7 percent of non-disadvantaged black students were proficient while 6.7 percent of disadvantaged black students were proficient.

Hispanic students seemed to have the same scores whether they were disadvantaged or not in the Forward math assessment. For example, 17.5 percent of non-disadvantaged Hispanic students were proficient and 17.9 percent of disadvantaged students were proficient.

According to the 2015-2016 Forward English Language Arts data, 44.1 percent of non-disadvantaged white students were proficient while 27.1 of the disadvantaged white students were proficient.

Approximately, 20.8 percent of non-disadvantaged black students were proficient while 8.3 percent of disadvantaged black students were proficient.

Approximately 29.9 percent of non-disadvantaged Hispanic students were proficient while 19.6 disadvantaged students were proficient.

When asked why minority students who are not considered economically disadvantaged nevertheless are doing worse than white students, the district’s Assistant Superintendent of Teaching, Learning and Innovation Anthony Bonds said the statistics reflect the poverty in the district as well as the statewide achievement gap.

Bonds said minority students also may have a lack of exposure to advanced coursework. Research also indicates minority students can be impacted by the educational level of their parents as well as a lack of experiences such as travel excursions and early literacy skill development. He also noted minority students’ families may also be more transient, which disrupts learning.

There may also be structural barriers which disadvantage African American and Latino students such as a culture of low expectations.

“Minority students in society are often underestimated, undervalued and marginalized. Until we deal with those structural issues, we will continue to deal with underperformance and a lack of advancement,” Bonds said.

Bonds said he is confident the district can improve student performance and close the achievement gap.

“There are examples out there where high poverty school districts are achieving at much higher rates than students in our district and state. We need to replicate some of those examples,” Bonds said.

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