STEM Beats - July 2017

Doubly Disadvantaged in Massachusetts: High-Poverty Schools in a High-Flying State

July 18, 2017

Massachusetts has earned bragging rights for its successes in education.  Few other U.S. states have seen such swift gains in students’ performance over the past two decades. Massachusetts eighth-graders lead the nation in math and science, and they can even hold their own against students in high-performing countries like Japan and Singapore. These achievements are the legacy of bold and sustained school reform championed by visionary leaders.

Yet students in Massachusetts’s poorest schools might as well live in a different state. We took a closer look at data from The Nation’s Report Card and found that those students have not fared as well as their peers in wealthier schools—particularly in science.

In Massachusetts schools where more than 75 percent of students qualify for free or subsidized lunch, eighth-graders seem to have lost ground in math between 2013 and 2015:*

In science, students in high-poverty schools are barely keeping pace with their peers nationwide:

Students in the state’s high-poverty schools lack opportunities to learn math and science. For example, they have less access to teachers with the background and support they need to teach the subjects:

Students in the state’s high-poverty schools also lack facilities and materials for science:

(To read more about high-poverty schools in Massachusetts, download our Massachusetts PowerPoint presentation on the subject.)

We don’t mean to pick on Massachusetts, which has been a trailblazer in school reform. Rather, Massachusetts offers a stark reminder that deep inequities can lurk behind our most inspiring success stories.

Massachusetts suffers from a problem that afflicts the nation as a whole, as our recent brief on high-poverty schools illustrates. The solutions we suggest in the brief aren't easy--shoring up teacher preparation, making teaching resources more broadly available, expanding access to excellent afterschool programs, among others.

Still, such efforts are critical at a time when one in six Massachusetts students--and one in for students nationwide--attends a high-poverty school.

NEW BRIEF: Ending the Double Disadvantage

July 6, 2017

Poor students who attend schools where the vast majority of their peers are poor as well labor under a double disadvantage. They suffer the deprivations of poverty, and their schools concentrate those deprivations. Students in schools where more than 75 percent of students are eligible for free or subsidized lunches are much least likely to have access to STEM resources, experiences, and classes most wealthy parents would demand for their children.

Change the Equation released a brief today with extensive new data on the problem and suggestions for tackling it: Ending the Double Disadvantage: Ensuring STEM Opportunities in our Poorest Schools. Download the brief and share it widely to raise awareness of this critical challenge.

One quarter of the nation's K-12 students attend schools where more than 75 percent of their peers qualify for free or subsidized lunches--and that share is growing. We cannot afford to squander than much talent.

Tags: low-income students