The No Child Left Behind (NCLB) era of educational reform, which is now at the close of its 14th year, focuses on improving student learning by using research-based teaching techniques, making evidence-based decisions, hiring quality teachers, holding schools and school districts accountable for student performance, and allowing families to leave a school that is designated as “failing” to attend one with a better report card. The goal of NCLB is to make sure each and every child reaches certain learning outcomes before he or she graduates from high school. However, school performance measures show that fourteen years of NCLB funding and efforts have not reached every school and, consequently, not every child. Many schools are still designated as “failing” as a result of numerous low performing students.
The purpose of this study is to examine the amount of variance in the new Pennsylvania school performance data that is explained by IRS-based income values. Upon initial inspection of school performance, it appears that scores decrease as income decreases. If this correlation is true and a statistically and practically significant amount of variance in school performance can be explained by income, then income is an underlying problem that cannot be resolved by NCLB efforts alone. The problem of low performing schools cannot be fixed until underlying issues are recognized and resolved. The goal of formally exposing income as a predictive variable in the school performance model is to bring a new awareness to the persistence of the economic chasm that separates school districts, schools, and students and their families.