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More About What Makes a Middle Class School

September 21st, 2011


The goal of our recent report “Incomplete: How Middle-Class Schools Aren’t Making the Grade” was to jumpstart a national conversation around the state of middle-class schools. Given the response, it looks like we’re off to a good start.

We’ve received a wide range of feedback from educators, policymakers, and thought leaders who share a common purpose—getting our kids ready to succeed in the 21st century. Since a portion of the response has focused on our definition of “middle-class” or our approach to school-by-school data, we wanted to take a moment to tackle some of the issues that have been raised.

It seems that the main point of contention that some have with our report has to do with how we define a middle-class school.

To sum up their argument, they find our use of eligibility statistics for free or reduced school lunch to be either arbitrary or too sweeping. Let us be clear: Our decision to use this criteria was a deliberate choice, grounded in established procedures and data.

With the current education reform debate almost entirely focused on low-income schools and students, we wanted to shed light on the schools in the middle that serve a majority of Americans. We paralleled the U.S. Department of Education’s definition of high poverty schools and districts as those with more than 75% of students qualifying for the National School Lunch Program (NSLP). Schools and districts with 25% or less of their students eligible for free or reduced lunch are the upper-end of the income spectrum. In essence, the middle two quartiles of schools are middle-class schools.  Read the rest of this entry »