(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)
In 2007, a family of four needed to earn less than $20,650 to qualify for a free lunch. In Arizona, the median family income for a family of four is over $65,000.
Here’s the surprising news: Low-income students in Florida—namely, those who qualify for free lunches—outperform all students in Arizona. That’s the insight to be gleaned by sifting through the treasure trove of data generated by the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), known as the Nation’s Report Card.
Figure 1 shows fourth grade reading scores for Florida students whose family income qualifies them for free lunch compared to all students in Arizona.
Figure 2 shows the percentage of Florida’s low-income children scoring basic or above on fourth grade reading and all Arizona students scoring at the same level.
You don’t need to take my word on these scores. You can go to the National Center for Education Statistics website and see them for yourself.
The point here is not to bash the underperformance of Arizona schools. Sadly, they have plenty of company. Rather, these data point to the enormity of the opportunity for improvement which we can and must achieve. Florida has found a way to significantly boost the performance of low-income students. Others should examine how and borrow everything we can.