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The goal of this study was to examine the relationships between school level poverty found in Maine schools and student academic performance. The evidence clearly shows that there is a relationship. As the percent of poverty increases in a school, student performance declines. But the poverty level alone does not explain the wide variations in performance found across the state. The level of poverty in a school is the single best predictor of average student performance, but other factors also play a role in influencing student achievement. Some of these factors include the type of school students are enrolled in, years of teaching experience of the school staff, and the education levels of teachers. Evidence was also found for some higher poverty schools that were defying the odds. Even with higher levels of poverty in their schools, these schools were successful in producing higher levels of student performance. Two additional characteristics were discovered for student performance in higher poverty schools. First, overall performance differs in K-8 and middle schools. The negative relationship between poverty levels and performance is weaker for K-8 schools. More of the higher poverty K-8 schools are performing better than higher poverty middle schools. Second, the levels of poverty found in schools not only affected children in poverty but also those not in poverty. Students in higher poverty schools who "do not" qualify for free or reduced lunches do not perform as well as their cohorts in lower poverty schools. What is unclear are the causes of this lower performance of non-poverty children in higher poverty schools. Without question, the evidence examined in this study indicates that levels of school poverty and average student achievement are related. The magnitude of the relationship varies, and other factors are related to poverty and achievement, but the single best predictor of performance is school poverty level. The bright news is that there are schools at all levels that defy the odds. Student achievement is better than predicted in spite of school poverty levels. These schools may provide good models for other schools to emulate. In addition, the evidence from this study indicates that there is more to learn about the performance of some types of school configurations (i.e., K-8 schools) and the performance of non-poverty children in higher poverty schools. Additional numerical data is included in the appendices. [This study was funded by the Maine State Legislature, and the University of Maine System.]


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