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More schools hit poverty threshold

By Christine Armario
Associated Press / May 28, 2010

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The percentage of public schools where more than three-quarters of students are eligible for free or reduced-price lunch — a key indicator of poverty — has increased in the past decade, and children at these schools are less likely to attend college or be taught by teachers with advanced degrees.

The findings come from a special report on high poverty schools included in the 2010 Condition of Education study, which reports on a broad range of academic indicators across K-12 and higher education.

The US Department of Education report released yesterday found that the percent of high poverty schools rose from 12 percent to 17 percent between the 1999-2000 and 2007-2008 school years, even before the current recession was fully felt.

By comparison, the overall poverty rate for children increased from 17 percent to 18 percent, leading researchers to believe that that a higher percentage of poor children were signing up for the meal program.

In all, there were 16,122 schools considered high-poverty.

Students at these schools face a number of disadvantages:

■ They are less likely to graduate from high school; on average, 68 percent of 12th-grade students in high poverty schools graduated with a diploma in 2007-2008, compared with 91 percent at low poverty schools.

■ After graduating from a high poverty school, 28 percent enrolled in a four-year institution, compared with 52 percent of graduates from low poverty schools.

“It’s a persistent challenge,’’ said Val Plisko, associate commissioner for early childhood, international and crosscutting studies at the National Center for Education Statistics, which produced the report.

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