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High‐Flying Schools, Student Disadvantage, and the Logic of NCLB

Florida State University

In debates about accountability, advocates often point to individual “high‐flying” schools that achieve high test scores despite serving disadvantaged populations. Using a near‐census of U.S. public schools, this new analysis considers the likelihood that schools become high flyers. The results suggest that of the more than 60,000 schools considered, low‐poverty schools are 22 times more likely to reach consistently high academic achievement compared with high‐poverty schools. Schools serving student populations that are both low poverty and low minority are 89 times more likely to be consistently high performing compared with high‐poverty, high‐minority schools. This does not mean that schools have no influence over student achievement, or that schools should be unaccountable, but that accountability systems need to have carefully defined objectives and measures of school progress. In addition, the results suggest the continued need to address home and community factors in the pursuit of educational equity.