Multiple Counties and How Poverty Affects Their Testing

East Laurens High School

There are schools in Georgia and the United States of America that have no issues with poverty. The schools have no problems with children who cannot afford to eat, who have problems with behavior due to their parents stressing over how to pay bills that are due, who yell constantly at their children to make them behave but have only conditioned them to be unscathed by a raised voice from a figure of authority. Other schools are filled to the brim with children like this. Students that don’t see kindness at home due to monetary issues, who don’t eat right because they do not have the money to. Most students in this situation only get their single meal from the school that they attend. By using the percentage of students who get these free and reduced lunches we can see a broad figure of the Socioeconomic Status of the school and the area surrounding said school.

In Georgia the Socioeconomic status of schools varies wildly when looking county to county. Even schools that share the same district vary when it comes to their free and reduced lunch rates. For the majority of this blog post we will be using this chart that shows the free and reduced lunch rate of all schools in all the counties in Georgia. This chart from Georgia’s Government website sheds some light on the rest of Georgia and how using this we can see counties near each other and schools near each other can fluctuate extremely when it comes to there free and reduced lunch status.

Looking through this chart we see schools with high percentages and schools with low percentages. We will focus our attention on the schools with low percentages and the counties that surround them using this map of Georgia’s counties from Galileo we can correctly identify which counties surround the school we focus on and therefore get a more accurate reading of the Socioeconomic Status (SES) of the area including the counties surrounding our target.

Wheeler County is in the mid-southeast of Georgia surrounded by counties of similar SES on all sides. According to our graph here Wheeler only has three schools within its county boundaries, Wheeler county elementary, middle, and high school. I saw these three schools and noticed something was strangely off. The elementary school had a one hundred percent free and reduced lunch rate but the middle school and high school both had the rate a zero percent. This was preposterous so I did some digging and found that this was not the case. By looking at another website by the name of Public School Review I was able to see that the free and reduced lunch eligibility for Wheeler County high school is not zero percent, when in fact it is ninety nine percent. The same rings true for the middle school as well, on the chart it was listed as zero percent free and reduced lunch when the school is listed at ninety nine percent free and reduced lunch.

After having done this research I then decided to look toward how these schools test while under the intensely high amount of poverty that has stricken these schools. While looking on public school review I was able to find the test scores and average placement for the students in these schools when compared to the state average and the results are fairly shocking. The percent of students that test with proficiency on standardized tests scored significantly lower than the average of the state of Georgia. In mathematics students at Wheeler high school tested nineteen percent and twenty six percent proficient in mathematics and reading/language arts respectively. For the middle school the scores are about the same, thirty percent and thirty percent for mathematics and reading respectively.

Now, looking through the list and at our map, we can see that there are multiple counties that fall under these same situations. If we look at Laurens county, the average free and reduced lunch percentage is 75.78 percent. Digging deeper though, the majority of the percentage comes from the schools on the east side of the county. This is quite unsettling since there are more east side schools, four compared to only two west side schools, and the percentage of free and reduced lunches average at eighty five percent as compared to the west at an average of forty eight percent. This shed light on the fact that these socioeconomic discrepancies can vary county to county and even within the county itself. This is more than a statewide problem; this is an intercounty situation.

Poverty being this far apart in percentage based study yet so close in geographical study was fascinating and horrifying to uncover. This is just one isolated situation in a sea of hundred and even thousands of counties across the nation. If problems like this are persistent within each of these states, serious reforms need to be looked at when your neighbor a few miles down the road is much more wealthy than you are.

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