High Poverty Levels Depress School Performance of All Students


This version of ScatterBrain (Javascript) has been modified to display a data set that contains student achievement in 1,019 elementary schools and middle schools in 16 of the larger school districts in Texas. The emphasis is on demonstrating the impact of poverty upon academic performance.  The sad fact is that 60 percent of Texas’ public-school students are classified as being economically disadvantaged.  Twenty years ago this number was 45 percent.  This one-third increase in the number of Texas school children who are eligible for the federal Free or Reduced-Price Lunch Program has made it extra difficult to show improvements in their educational attainment.  Furthermore, the very high proportions of economically disadvantaged students in many schools greatly multiply the difficulties of achieving satisfactory academic progress. In addition, the concentration of large percentages of economically disadvantaged children in a given school also reduces the progress of students who are not designated as economically disadvantaged.  The Texas school funding system’s additional grant provided to school districts for each economically disadvantaged student fails to meet the greatly increased cost of educating such students in schools with very high concentrations, nor does it acknowledge the collateral costs imposed on the non-economically disadvantaged students who attend the same schools.  

In the following graph each middle school in Fort Bend ISD is represented by two colored circles, one directly above the other in accordance with the percentage of economically disadvantaged (ED) students at a school.  The aqua-colored circles represent the percentage of non-ED (NED) students achieving the grade Making Grade Level (MGL) standard; the orange circles represent the percentages of ED students achieving the MGL standard. The data beneath the graphs show that 75% of the NED students met grade level in all subjects (MGL_NED) while just 37% of the ED students met the same standard.


The software available here produces graphs using performance data for over 1,000 schools which together enroll 723,992 elementary and middle school students in 16 school districts. The previous diagram, and many others, can be reproduced with this software, the individual points which represent schools can be identified and their associated data displayed beneath the graph.

The program is initiated by clicking on Item 2 at the left.

Items 3 – 7 at the left contain instructions for using the program. Click on the black arrows to show the individual steps in each case. Also, the special instructions tailored to this modified version of the software are available by clicking on the button [Supl. Instr.].

Item 8 permits downloading a draft paper that analyzes and discusses the impact of increasing levels of poverty upon the school performance of economically disadvantaged students as well upon the performance of students who are not classified as economically disadvantaged. The paper is based upon the data for the 16 school districts and their 1,019 middle and elementary schools which are displayed in the scatterplots in this section.