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Ohio groups: Student performance tied to poverty

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Student performance in the classroom is linked to poverty, an analysis of data collected under Ohio's new school assessment system and released Monday confirms, according to groups representing Ohio school boards, administrators and treasurers.

The review found that Ohio's 123 suburban school districts scored the highest on the performance index calculated as part of Ohio's new A-F grading system while also recording the highest average income, the lowest poverty rate and the highest concentration of college degrees.

The analysis was conducted jointly by the Ohio School Boards Association, the Ohio Association of School Business Officials and the Buckeye Association of School Administrators.

The groups "are absolutely not saying that students who are economically disadvantaged could not do well," said Barbara Shaner, representing the business officials' association.

"What we're saying is that there are things that affect whether or not a student performs well other than just what happens in the classroom," Shaner said. "We just want to make sure that everyone is aware of this correlation so that going forward as we determine public policy and as we choose where to spend our resources we have this information in front of us."

Race was a less consistent factor than income in performance, the analysis found.

The suburban districts that scored highest on the new performance index had the third-highest concentration of minorities among the eight classes of school districts recognized by the Ohio Department of Education.

In releasing its own analysis of the report cards earlier this month, the conservative Thomas B. Fordham Institute said that neither the school performance index nor a second "value-added" measure of students' learning gains collected for the report cards is a perfect gauge of the job Ohio's schools are doing.

"Zeroing in on achievement alone risks mislabeling a school as failing academically, when it may be doing a great job helping students make big gains after starting out far behind," its Sept. 9 report said. "At the same time, focusing only on student progress, while ignoring achievement, may conceal the fact that students, even those making solid gains, remain far below the academic standard necessary to enter college or to obtain gainful employment upon graduating from high school."

Ohio Department of Education spokesman John Charlton said the state wants to see all children receive a quality education at a quality school.

"No matter where they're located, no matter what students go there, we want to make sure every student gets educated," he said. "In Ohio, we feel every student can learn and every school should be able to teach, and every school should be able to make a student successful."

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Online:

Ohio School Boards Association: http://www.ohioschoolboards.org

Thomas B. Fordham Institute: http://www.edexcellence.net

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