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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

Where poor kids are learning — Texas

Chess is popular in Brownsville, Texas schools. In this 2012 photo, Hannah High School students consider their moves. Photo: Will Van Overbeek

Only 4 percent of schools have closed the economic achievement gap, according to the Education Equality Index. Brownsville, Texas, a border town with high poverty rates and many Spanish-speaking families, does the best at educating low-income students, according to the index, a project of GreatSchools and Education Cities.

Eight of the top 10 cities are in Texas, including El Paso and McAllen, notes Lauren Camera in U.S. News.

In Brownsville, 95 percent of students are poor, 33 percent aren’t fluent in English — and 90 percent earn a high school diploma.

At least one commonality among the cities doing a good job educating low-income students, the researchers underscored, is the intense and constant focus on those students. “Because low-income students constitute a majority of the student body in these cities,” they wrote, “instructional strategies, wraparound programs, social-emotional learning approaches, and community partnerships are all aligned explicitly to support low-income students and their learning needs.”

That sounds like an argument against economic integration of schools. However, I’m not sure how persuasive it is: Most cities with concentrated poverty have lousy results.

Even in Brownsville, “only 37 percent of low-income students scored ‘proficient’ on state math exams, and 25 percent on reading exams, well below the averages for wealthier students,” notes the Hechinger Report.

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