One of the highlights of the GSSA Spring Bootstrap Conference was the presentation by Ralph Martire, Executive Director of the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability located in the Chicago, IL area. Interestingly, Martire got his start as an attorney with Troutman and Sanders in Atlanta. He presented a tremendous amount of information that sheds light on the plight of public schools in the United States. I invite you to visit the GSSA website, http://gssaweb.org/ to look at these materials.
One of the most interesting set of data presented had to do with the United States performance on the PISA exam, Programme for International Student Assessment , which focuses primarily on science and math. When the 34 countries are ranked, the USA is in the middle of the pack—unless you look at some powerful data. If USA school systems with 0-10% free and reduced lunch were used to represent the USA, the USA would rank FIRST in the world! If only USA school systems with 0-20% free and reduced lunch were used we would rank FOURTH in the world! It is only after you reach 25% free and reduced lunch that poverty begins to significantly impact overall student performance.
That says an awful lot about Georgia where the state average for free and reduced lunch tops 60%. Furthermore, it substantiates what a tremendous job school systems with average and above average free and reduced lunch are doing in today’s educational environment. It bears repeating that EVERY school on the Governor’s failing schools list exceeds the state average for free and reduced lunch. For far too long we have discounted the influence that poverty has on the academic performance of our students.
This year for the first time since I have been following the General Assembly on a close and personal basis, legislators are making significant efforts to address the poverty issue. It will be a long and tiring battle but some of the most powerful legislators such as Sen. Lindsey Tippins totally get it and they are working to convince their colleagues of the tremendous impact that poverty is having on our state. Hopefully we have turned a major corner!