Thursday, May 29, 2014

Mapping student achievement, poverty and school funding

The KASB advocacy tour is in Liberal, where we will hold an advocacy breakfast meeting before heading to Garden City for a lunch meeting and hold a briefing for Legislative candidates this afternoon. We'll wrap up the first week of the tour Friday morning in Dodge City.

Earlier this week, KASB social media followers posted the map shown below, from the search engine FindTheBest. It shows how states rank on a several national academic tests.  States in dark green had the highest results; light green for the next best (including Kansas); followed by yellow, orange, tan, light red and dark red.  Quite clearly, the New England, middle Atlantic and Midwestern states have the best performance, while southern and western states do the worst.

For KASB, I have used a somewhat different way of ranking states that includes high school graduation and adult education levels, but the results are similar.

Yesterday, another map was posted by Kansas Action for Children that shows some of the reasons for - or consequences of - differences in student achievement.  This map, from the Kaiser Family Foundation state health facts section, shows the percentage of persons age 18 and under in poverty by state.

Strikingly, most states with the lowest poverty are among the higher achieving states on national tests, while the south and southwest tends to have high poverty and low achievement.  Why?  Students from low income families tend to have more difficulty reaching higher levels in school, and families whose parents have lower education levels are much more likely to have lower incomes.  Poverty is therefore both a cause and effect of lower student achievement.

Finally, here is a third map from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Public Education Finances: 2012 showing current spending per pupil for each state.  Note that the highest spending states are in the northeast, which generally also have higher student achievement and less poverty.  On the other hand, most of the lowest spending states range across the south and southwest, with lower student achievement and higher poverty rates.

These three maps strongly indicate that higher spending on K-12 education not only results in better student, but also creates more economic prosperity by reducing childhood poverty.

One media outlet suggested the first map shows a new "Mason-Dixon Line" for educational achievement, referring to the old division between north and south before the Civil War. That line appears to extend to poverty and educational support as well. Which side of the line should Kansas be on?


  1. I think these generalities have been clear for a long time, but I would add that the poorer a state is, the less it is ABLE to spend on education (creating that vicious circle mentioned in the article), since money for schools comes mostly from taxes on the people of the state and the school district. So maybe we can see a solution for achieving a quality education but what is the solution for eliminating poverty?

  2. Research certainly supports the connection between spending and achievement. For example:

  3. It should stay on the north, but our GOP politicians sure are trying to drag us down. They prefer us to be poor, ignorant and desperate. Clinging "to their guns and religion"! I know it annoyed a lot of people when President Obama made this statement, but the truth hurts.


(Comments on this blog are moderated.)