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Small Schools Equalize Power in Poverty and Achievement Scores; longitudinal study.

Updated: Dec 7, 2020

Researches asked the question "does poverty have more power over students performance in bigger vs. smaller schools?". Researchers collected data in a longitudinal study, spanning three years, from schools in Montana, Georgia, Ohio and Texas for the National Data Center for Education. For each school site, researchers used average student performances on standardized state mandated achievement tests. The findings showed that despite the low affluence of each school researched, all less affluent communities scored better in smaller schools vs. larger ones. In fact, the lower income recorded in the community, the better students faired in smaller schools.

In Ohio, at all grade levels for both advanced and average pass rates, both smaller schools and smaller districts are associated with higher achievement in poor communities.

In Texas, as school size increases, the average achievement score (in schools serving children from poor neighborhoods) records show a categorical decrease on eight of ten test scores.

Large schools, too large to serve their students, have become much like an epidemic in this country. For example, in Ohio; at the 9th grade level, 90 percent of schools are too big to maximize achievement given the income level of the communities they serve. The schools serve 89 percent of all 9th graders.

In Texas: at the 10th grade level, 57 percent of the schools are too big to maximize achievement, given the income level of the communities they serve, and would likely produce higher test scores if they were smaller. These school serve almost half (46%) of the states 10th graders.


If improving student achievement and narrowing the achievement gap between children from the most affluent and and the least affluent communities is a policy goal, states should consider adopting policies favoring smaller schools, especially in the least affluent communities. Furthermore, states concerned about reinvesting in deteriorating school facilities should not be eager to increase school size in most cases. If higher achievement, especially in poor communities, is a goal (Howley, 2017).

The Data: TANF program

Source: ERIC Educational Resource Information Center

ERIC Number: EJ1110886

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