Countless studies have linked poverty and low socioeconomic status to low test scores, but some schools with children in poverty still do better than others. Resilient schools, as they are called, have better reading scores and higher poverty levels. New research in the July issue of American Behavioral Scientist looks carefully at factors that correlate with poverty, as well as school resiliency among 270,000 students in over 250 schools in Broward School District in Broward County, Florida. The author, Sara Ransdell, a professor in the Department of Health Science at Nova Southeastern University, had a twofold mission: tease out some of the conditions correlated with poverty to see how much they affect student performance, and target resilient schools and try to determine why they are outperforming their counterparts.
The results of the first part of study are almost disappointingly straightforward: Poverty was, by far, the biggest predictor of whether a child could read in the Broward School District at large.
Other factors, such as a child’s English Language Learner status or whether the child engaged in risky behavior, made “minor and often redundant contributions” to how a child performed in Ransdell’s analysis. After controlling for a myriad of different school- and child-related factors, including class sizes, teacher resources, and student ethnicity, the author was pointed back to the simplest explanation for why some children read better than others in school.