By Oliver Lazenby
Sixth graders in Blaine school district are half a grade level ahead of the average American sixth grader, according to a new study by researchers from Stanford University based on standardized reading and math test scores.
The New York Times used data from the study to create graphs that show a striking correlation between test performance and median family income.
“Children in school districts with the highest concentrations of poverty score an average of more than four grade levels below children in the richest districts,” according to the Times’ April 29 article.
For districts with a median income similar to Blaine’s, a few of the highest scoring district had scores more than two grade levels above average. Some of the wealthiest districts in the country have scores nearly four grade levels above average.
Very few districts with a median family income of $41,000 or less earned even average scores, and some are nearly four grade levels behind
The Blaine School District’s median family income of $61,000 a year puts it above the nation’s median household income, which was $52,250 in 2013, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Some reasons for the correlation include the fact that poorer districts have a harder time recruiting and retaining skilled teachers, classes are more likely to be disrupted by emotional incidents, the schools are likely to have fewer high-level classes and parents have fewer resources, according to the article.
The study’s director, Sean Reardon, cautioned that the data shouldn’t be used to rank school districts, as a variety of factors – including household environment, access to opportunities outside of school and whether parents read to their kids – affect standardized test scores.
Blaine scored similarly to other Whatcom County school districts:
- Blaine: 0.5 grade levels above average
- Ferndale: 0.4 grade levels above average
- Lynden: 0.5 grade levels above average
- Bellingham: 0.9 grade levels above average
- Nooksack Valley: 0.7 grade levels above average
- Mount Baker: 0.1 grade levels below average
- Meridian: 0.1 grade levels below average.
The article and graph may be seen at nyti.ms/1VWVi5g.