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New Study Demonstrates Impact of Poverty on Student Learning

According to a UNICEF report of 2012, the United States ranks second highest in child poverty among the most developed nations in the world. Does such poverty affect classroom learning? Recently, the Maine Legislature’s Education Committee asked a team of researchers at the University of Southern Maine to examine the impact of poverty on achievement in Maine schools.

David Silvernail, director of USM’s Center for Education Policy, Applied Research and Evaluation, presented the report, “The Relationships Between School Poverty and Student Achievement in Maine,” to the Maine Legislature’s Education Committee on Thursday, January 9.

Among the key findings:

1. Poverty and student performance are related in Maine. As poverty levels increase, student performance decreases.

2. The relationship between poverty and achievement appears to be accumulative. The connection between the higher poverty levels found in Maine schools and performance becomes stronger in the higher grades. The effects of poverty become more pronounced in middle and high school.

3. Higher poverty levels in schools also have adverse effects on non-poverty students. Non-poverty students in higher poverty schools do not perform as well as their non-poverty classmates in more affluent schools.

The report is published by the Maine Education Policy Research Institute in the Center for Education Policy, Applied Research, and Evaluation (CEPARE) in the University of Southern Maine School of Education and Human Development.