Mapping Poverty Level and Test Grades in Wake Schools

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New mapping by the Record shows that as schools become more high-poverty from West to East across Wake County, they are also more likely to score poorly on End of Grade tests.

After the Record released a map showing the trend of wealthy schools in the Western part of the county and poorer schools in the East last week, we received requests to produce more data maps from advocacy organizations as well as the school system. We heeded the call and produced additional testing and free-and reduced-lunch demographic maps.

Here’s what we came up with:

2012-13 F&R

2012-13 F&R projections show a well-defined trend of schools becoming more high-poverty moving from West to East.

Over and Under-Chosen Schools

Percentage by which schools were under or over-chosen in the first proximity round does not show a clear trend that correlates to the other maps. Percentages more than 100 indicate by how much schools were over-chosen and vice-versa.
F&R Maps
0-25% = green
25-50% = yellow
50-75% = red
75-100% = purple

Report Card Maps
50-60% at grade level = purple
60-100% at grade level = blue
60-80% = red
80-90% = yellow
90-100% = green

To rate a school’s EOG performance, we used report card grades issued by the NC Department of Public Instruction. As we mapped schools’ performance, a trend emerged that correlated strongly with free-and-reduced-lunch data.

The data shows that the poorer a school is, the more likely it will have worse overall scores on EOG tests and the wealthier it is, the more likely it is to have better scores. While it doesn’t prove a cause, it’s a strong correlation.

Moreover, we produced maps, which show F&R percentages and DPI ratings from 2003-04. That data bears out a similar correlation.

In 2003-04, when the diversity policy was in effect, the same trend existed of schools becoming increasingly high-poverty from West to East across the county, but it was noticeably less pronounced. (As seen in the mixing of the yellow and red dots.)

Directly East of Raleigh, in fact, there were slightly more schools in the 25 to 50 percent range than in the 50 percent and up range.

Next year, according to school system data, that part of the county will consist almost exclusively of schools at which more than 50 percent of the student body will receive free-and-reduced lunch.

Fifty percent F&R and higher is often a demarcation line cited by officials and advocates as the point at which a schools’ ability to perform well is compromised.

It should also be noted that in 2003-04 the overall percentage of students receiving F&R in the district was 24.3 percent. Last year, it was 32.4 percent.

In 2003-04 we also see a correlation with F&R and test scores. As the schools were more mixed socioeconomically, test results were also more mixed.

2003-04 F&R

2003-04 F&R trends show a much less well-defined movement of schools becoming poorer from West to East.

2003-04 EOG Results

2003-04 DPI Report Card Grades show test scores decreasing from West to East in a less well defined trend than 2010-11. It correlates with the F&R map for 2003-04.

Additionally, we mapped F&R distribution just before the school board’s assignment policy was changed to represent proximity as the most important factor in student assignment. The change was made by the former Republican majority in 2010.

The map of F&R in December 2009 shows a definite trend of schools becoming increasingly high-poverty from West to East that is far more pronounced than in 2003-04, despite the diversity policy still being in effect.

Dec. 2009 F&R

Dec. 2009 F&R percentages show a snapshot of F&R trends before the assignment policy was changed by the former Republican majority to reflect proximity in assignment. The main difference between then and now is the absence of schools with more than 75 percent F&R.

The most noticeable difference in the maps is the absence of extremely high-poverty schools, as defined by more than 75 percent of the student body receiving free-and-reduced lunch.

In 2009-10, no schools were above the 75 percent mark. In 2010-11, there were two. Next year, there is set to be seven such schools.

F&R 2010

2010-11 F&R percentages show a well-defined trend of schools becoming more high-poverty moving from West to East, but there are less schools above the 75 percent mark.

2010-11 EOG Results

2010-11 DPI Report Card grades show test scores decreasing from West to East that correlates with F&R percentages.

The highest concentration of F&R at any one school in 2009-10 was 62 percent (i.e. the last year of the diversity policy.) Next year, 18 schools will be above that mark.

We also created a map indicating how much schools were under or over-chosen in the most recent selection round at the kindergarten level. Figures of more than 100 percent indicate by how much the school was over-chosen and vice-versa.

We didn’t find any correlation between this data and the other maps we compiled.

Ideas for other maps or data visualization? Send them our way and we’ll let you know if we can make it happen.

4 thoughts on “Mapping Poverty Level and Test Grades in Wake Schools

  1. So, clearly part of the problem was the rejiggering of EOGs in the ’06-’07 timeframe that caused average scores to drop all over the county.

    It’s also important to understand that poor students do worse on EOGs than their more affluent peers (it’s true in Wake, statewide and nationally). So, when you fit more poor kids into a school, the average performance will go down.

    The real question is whether their average performance goes down MORE than you’d expect. A few years ago, I looked at the data for Elementary Schools, and concluded that it didn’t — the performance of poor students in Wake schools was independent of the percentage in their schools. (Actually, there was a slight positive correlation (0.1), which would imply that, if anything, poor students DO BETTER when grouped together. But, I suspect that was just random.)

  2. As Bob has stated, there is no new information here by which anyone can make a policy decision. Providing the following suggested maps would be far more valuable:
    1. F&R performance (2003-2004 and 2010-2011)
    2. NED performance (2003-2004 and 2010-2011)