Poverty skews Unified's scores -- Income, race set Racine district apart from its ‘peers’

2012-11-18T05:45:00Z 2013-12-18T13:12:30Z Poverty skews Unified's scores -- Income, race set Racine district apart from its ‘peers’LINDSAY FIORI lindsay.fiori@journaltimes.com Journal Times

RACINE — Each fall, Racine Unified is pitted against nine similarly-sized Wisconsin districts for a comparison of test scores, graduation rates, attendance and more.

And each fall Unified is either the worst performer or close to it. But the district also consistently has the most students living in poverty.

Educators agree poverty unquestionably breeds lower-performing students, and that has some locally questioning if it’s fair to compare Unified to richer districts and those with less entrenched generational poverty.

“It’s not fair to compare us to an Appleton,” said Unified Superintendent Ann Laing. “I’m not even sure if it’s fair for (them to compare us to) Madison because Madison has a huge population with college degrees compared to us.”

Laing added Unified also has many more black

students than the other nine districts, a fact that leads to more talk of unfair comparisons because data show Wisconsin’s black students perform worse than other racial groups on state tests.

“African-American students have not been successful,” Laing said. “We have to do something to address that.”

The district is working on strategies to better engage black students, Laing said. As for poverty, it’s not a problem the district can solve alone, she said.

Poverty makes a difference

About three-fifths of Racine Unified students come from lower-income families, according to the “Comparative Analysis of the Racine Unified School District” report released this month by the Milwaukee-based Public Policy Forum, a nonpartisan, nonprofit research entity.

The report is released annually and compares the 10 largest Wisconsin school districts, excluding Milwaukee because it’s so much bigger than the rest. Racine Unified is among those 10, as are Green Bay, Janesville and Waukesha.

Though the districts vary in enrollment from about 27,000 students to about 10,000, all 10 are used for comparison because it provides a “more accurate” sample size, said Public Policy Forum President Rob Henken.

“The larger the sample size the better,” Henken said. But he cautioned, “Without question you have to analyze academic achievement in the context of demographics including poverty levels. ... And we do that. There is all sorts of demographic information in the report.”

Take the poverty data in the report, for example. It shows Racine Unified has the most impoverished students, 60.7 percent, and Waukesha has the least, 34.7 percent.

“Sixty percent poverty districtwide, that’s a tough, tough thing to deal with,” said Waukesha Superintendent Todd Gray, explaining poverty absolutely makes a difference in student achievement.

With relatively little poverty, his district’s test scores often ranked in the top four among the districts compared in this year’s report. Meanwhile, Racine ranks last in all but one testing category.

The poverty rates make that contrast expected — but it’s less expected that Racine students do markedly worse when compared to Green Bay, which has 57.1 percent of students living in poverty, and Janesville, which has 55.3 percent in poverty.

Racine’s lower scores happen even though all three districts use similar strategies to increase student achievement. They all analyze data to evaluate programs and identify struggling children; they all give those strugglers more help; and they all have teachers collaborate and share best teaching practices, according to administrators from each district.

Despite the similarities, Unified has lower scores, likely because poverty in Racine is both generational — which “has a huge impact on parents (not) encouraging their kids to believe that school is important” — and also new, Laing said.

“Another level of poverty is people who are new to poverty who used to be working class, middle class and now don’t have jobs,” Laing said. “Racine has a higher jobless rate than those communities.”

Fixing that cannot be under schools’ purview, Laing said. Businesses and the community must address the reasons for poverty.

Meanwhile Unified will educate poor students “the best we can,” she said. The district will stay the course with current strategies, the same ones working in Green Bay and Janesville.

Unified must reach out to blacks

Unified will also work on how educators teach black students.

The district has a significantly higher black population than the nine districts it gets compared to, a concern since black students across the state generally have lower state testing scores than their white and Hispanic peers.

“I’m not sure why it’s a huge issue here and I actually don’t care about the reason,” Laing said. “We just have to do something.”

The district has been working on “culturally responsive” teaching where educators take students’ backgrounds into account. This week Laing also sent six staff to Nashville, Tenn., for the National Alliance of Black School Educators’ annual conference. The goal is to recruit more black teachers and also come back with ideas about how to educate black kids, Laing said.

“If we ever expect to improve our overall test scores,” she said, “we have to address what we’re doing with African-American kids.”

Maybe then the comparisons, no matter how fair, will paint a different picture.

Copyright 2015 Journal Times. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(34) Comments

  1. Ma Hambone Banjo
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    Ma Hambone Banjo - November 23, 2012 8:49 am
    I is sick of Unified excuses. It is like tham Racine Raiders that cries they can't win any NFL Superbowls like they "peer" the Packers. They are both football teams ain't they? So what if they draw from a different talent pool and gots less fancy facilitys er whatnot. They coach need to coach harder and stuff to overcome all that.
    Why isn't Parkside turn out as many graduate of distinction as they "peer" Harvard? We pay the big taxes and they is not even do as good as Harvard? What the Heckfire?
  2. ggodmuls
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    ggodmuls - November 19, 2012 11:27 am
    They need to be paid in proper proportion to the tax base. The Tax base is what they are supposed to grow, nurture, and tend. Racine has been one big FAILURE! The politicians and just LOOTING at this point - which is why Racine has NEGATIVE GROWTH. How long can Racine maintain NEGATIVE GROWTH and sustain spending?

    Well, we'll find out, because they are all clueless and only in it for themselves - that's the taxing authorities - City of Racine, RUSD, Gateway, and the County. Good luck squeezing $$$ from a Turnip.
  3. MJMiracleAngels
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    MJMiracleAngels - November 18, 2012 11:39 pm
    ALL the parents spoiling their children with every device under the sun and spending hours on end playing their favorite games. Then their child lashes out at the parent/guardian in disbelief and doesn't want to even try at their homework or whats even damaging misbehave in class. Then doesn't even learn the lesson taught. The truth is most of you have no clue it's turning your children into your worst nightmare. Flat lining all through school and not understanding what they are taught. No wonder why I see the scores are nothing to smile at or even be proud of. Your child is your 1st priority and you don't need to be on these devices while your child is crying out for help from YOU. It is a raw shame that every school day I walk with my children to the bus stop and I see students younger than mine being forced to wait for the school bus alone. What is wrong with you people? Do you want your child to end up like Jaycee Dugard because you condone it each and every day. There are sex offenders everywhere you can even look for yourself. With some of you your eyes are wide shut. Let your child know you care about them by giving them the best education possible. It doesn't matter if the teachers are black, Mexican, or white because everyone has a ability to learn. If they are wonderful teachers why change? Just that some students need an extra motivation and drive to be educated. Students home life will prosper and some will damper because the situations at home. When students need extra help from parents/guardian at home chances are their not getting it at home at all. CAREGIVERS NEED TO SEE THE LIGHT AT THE END OF THE TUNNEL! They need to support their child any way they can to help them succeed in school and in life situations.
  4. Zigmond
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    Zigmond - November 18, 2012 11:03 pm
    I have an idea, since Progressive poverty programs started in the 60's have failed, lets put it into hyperdrive.

    Obama to Spend $10.3 Trillion on Welfare: Uncovering the Full Cost of Means-Tested Welfare or Aid to the Poor

  5. Joeboy5471
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    Joeboy5471 - November 18, 2012 10:35 pm
    Unless the parents are middle class themselves they will not have the tools and understanding to pass on skill sets to their kids and have the proper ability to follow-up with the kids teachers. The low test scores are a result of generations of people not having the proper education and training to be able to mentor their children. There are also parents who do not have enough time because of work, working two or more jobs or both parents work. The teachers cannot be teachers and parents to the children and there are allot of people who throw those stones at the teachers who do not have an understanding what teachers have to go through. They get it from the parents, society in general and the administration who are beating on them to improve what appears to be a situation that cannot be improved.
  6. Zigmond
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    Zigmond - November 18, 2012 10:27 pm
    I Got 15 Kids & 3 Babydaddys-SOMEONE'S GOTTA PAY FOR ME & MY KIDS!!!

  7. Zigmond
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    Zigmond - November 18, 2012 10:16 pm
    It's Free Swipe Yo EBT (Clean) - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=luo40WjBKWI

  8. I Come In Peace
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    I Come In Peace - November 18, 2012 9:30 pm
    Tell the truth. it's apparent that you have no idea why the Teachers protested last year Read a book.
  9. I Come In Peace
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    I Come In Peace - November 18, 2012 9:29 pm
    Agreed, 100%. "Middle Class" Republicans continue believing that Public employees/Union members should have the same declining pay, expensive Health Insurance and benefits that they have. They say, "I don't have a Pension..... I don't have affordable Health Care!!". Yet they do nothing about it. And they ignore the record pay CEO's are making these days. Man oh man... is the Republican media pulling one over on them or what. They just keep on dangling that Carrot.
  10. I Come In Peace
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    I Come In Peace - November 18, 2012 9:24 pm
    You listen to too much Sykes.
  11. I Come In Peace
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    I Come In Peace - November 18, 2012 9:23 pm
    Government workers/teachers are overpaid? Now that's funny.
  12. I Come In Peace
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    I Come In Peace - November 18, 2012 9:22 pm
    She didn't say "dumb" blacks. You should work on your reading comprehension.
  13. I Come In Peace
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    I Come In Peace - November 18, 2012 9:21 pm
    Jonas, do you even know why these kids get suspended? I doubt it.
  14. I Come In Peace
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    I Come In Peace - November 18, 2012 9:19 pm
    If you took all Waukesha teachers, sent them to Racine, took all Racine teachers and sent them to Waukesha. Waukesha would still rank in the top four every year and Racine would still struggle to keep up. Racine has great teachers but they are in an uphill battle every year. Unfortunately, ignorant Republicans like Walker are oblivious to this fact. Either that or they just don't want to believe it.
  15. nike
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    nike - November 18, 2012 9:09 pm
    ...and fight for your child who may not be a "traditional learner"
  16. nike
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    nike - November 18, 2012 9:07 pm
    Well said.
  17. tell-the-truth-please
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    tell-the-truth-please - November 18, 2012 7:19 pm
    Voice and Dignity !!!! Please excuse while I throw up. Poor Teacher's Union Primadonna Cry babies. Thank God the good people of Wisconsin while not having the good judgement to remove president Snowbama at least realized that the spoiled rotten public pension teachers union hogs were completely out of control.

    Protest ????? really, what were the public pension piglets protesting about. Having to pay
    %6 toward their pensions and %12 toward their retirement !!!!!!!

    Thank the Good Lord you still have a job with health care and pesion benefits while millions of others are suffering.

    No other profession on the face of the planet would be allowed to exist untouched delivering such dismal results.

    I believe many good public school teachers still exist, but at 1/3 across the nation must be terminated.

    If public education is on its way to destruction, it isnt because of the Republican Party, it is because of the single largest contributor to the Democration Party....... the National Education Association Teachers Union.

  18. An American
    Report Abuse
    An American - November 18, 2012 6:32 pm
    What is another word for a person that doesn't protest when someone is taking away something very important to them such as their voice and dignity? Oh, we don't want to go there, do we? It is much more appropriate to just say have your way with me, according to some. Then again, that some have no dignity to protect. We use to call them W......
  19. Joeboy5471
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    Joeboy5471 - November 18, 2012 5:57 pm
    Since you are back, you might need a refresher course in education and social engineering.
  20. margeg
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    margeg - November 18, 2012 3:44 pm
    No blame here - just because some of teachers spent their time protesting rather than teaching in the class room. Granted many of these kids have a difficult time learning, have little or no home support but lets be honest, having distracted teachers doesn't help much either.
  21. An American
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    An American - November 18, 2012 3:30 pm
    As it has always been said: "Follow the Money." If you follow the money over the last 30-40 years you would find that the Republicans have been redistributing the wealth to the top 1 percent. That's why they want to destroy education. They have been doing all the can to promote the dumbing down of America for their economic and political gain. Go ahead, follow the money. Today's upcoming generation is America's first to not have it better that their parents.
  22. hmkb
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    hmkb - November 18, 2012 12:13 pm
    I agree with I am back. The importance of education in a family comes from the family. It is a fact that parents are a child's first teacher. The best way to solve this problem is to provide parents with education on how to parent their kids, and to be supportive to the school and teachers. If children are not provided with a literature-rich early childhood, they lag behind their peers. Language is the basis of all learning, and children who are deprived of exposure to language and books at an early age lose. They continue to lose as their parents paint of negative picture of school and teachers for them as they enter school. It does all boil down to parenting and lack of support for education whether anyone cares to admit this fact or not. The public library is free, so there is no excuse for not reading to children. Parents need to learn how to parent-bottom line!
  23. JTWinger
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    JTWinger - November 18, 2012 11:20 am
    Bring back reform schools.
  24. ggodmuls
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    ggodmuls - November 18, 2012 11:11 am
    The UGLY truth you won't face is that children are used as CASHCOWS by many irresponsible breeders and liberals alike. Children are valued only as pawns used to facilitate wealth transfer schemes, then discarded like trash.

    Why do you think the Prison Industry is such a huge part of the US economy - and NO WHERE ELSE IN THE WORLD?
  25. ggodmuls
    Report Abuse
    ggodmuls - November 18, 2012 9:55 am
    Let's not overlook the fact that resources, ALL resources, are limited, on a finite Planet. All government employees are overpaid and are demanding more than their fair share of the resources available and justify it by ________ (fill in the blank with the meme for the day)

    As such, they leave NO OPPORTUNITY for others - and then blame those others for being eliminated in the competition for resources. David Hazens plan to hire a replacement for Anna Laing at $200K+ will only allocate more resources and cause more failure and lack of opportunity.

    No opportunities means that people will get their dopamine fix elsewhere - in sex, drugs, and alcohol, ensuring a steady supply of impoverished people for the Democratic Plantation Anna Laing oversees.

    From James

    The human mind is an amazing thing. The human mind can create an analog world where tools and information can be developed and then translated into real world tools. The real world tools can be put to work upon resources. The consumption of resources supplies dopamine to a more primitive and lower part of the brain, the limbic system where all of the wants and feelings and emotions reside. The limbic system makes decisions regarding our daily actions, nudging us in the direction of those things that will make us feel good and have ensured our survival over many millions of years. We are born to compete and get rewards just as fast as we can. There is no end to this until the resources run out. When we are done converting resources into dopamine we will have destroyed our ecosystem and ourselves. A dead end.

    If man’s evolution were truly unusual, he would have developed the ability to control his self-defeating appetites. Can doing nothing feel good? No. Not in the long run. Our bodies would run out of energy and perish. That’s why we have dopamine, to get us out of bed in the morning and send us on our way to resource consumption. Of course, some get their dopamine from drugs while others get their dopamine from religion. Deliverance to heaven is much less destructive than a mansion, Ferrari, private jet etc., unless of course you want both, and many people, being enthralled by dopamine want all they can manage to get."
  26. I am back
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    I am back - November 18, 2012 9:25 am
    Until parents wake up and take responsibility for their kids education nothing is going to change. That has NOTHING to do with income. Its culture. Its the entitlement society! When kids without education have kids the cycle continues. Responsibilty people!!!
  27. Green Racinereal
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    Green Racinereal - November 18, 2012 8:58 am
    “Another level of poverty is people who are new to poverty who used to be working class, middle class and now don’t have jobs,” Laing said. “Racine has a higher jobless rate than those communities.”

    Just wait between Obama Care the cost of energy going up and Mayor John Dickert 2012 will seem like the Good Old Days.
    In 5 years when Racine is down another 10% in population yet having increasing needs for services to the poor and not having any money for anything what will happen?
  28. ggodmuls
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    ggodmuls - November 18, 2012 8:35 am
    Despite the similarities, Unified has lower scores, likely because poverty in Racine is both generational — which “has a huge impact on parents (not) encouraging their kids to believe that school is important” — and also new, Laing said.

    Point 1: It is well past due for the time when having children is licensed and controlled. As long as Americans are going to engage in this failed experiment of using children as a conduit for wealth transfer - irresponsible breeding can't be allowed.

    Point 2: Anna Laing claims to be "educated" and has some "degrees" to prove it. So, why is it that: "Another level of poverty is people who are new to poverty who used to be working class, middle class and now don’t have jobs,” Laing said. “Racine has a higher jobless rate than those communities.”

    IS it because we have a financial system of retirements that depend upon a return of 8% or so? How is an exponential function, like 8% continual growth, possible in the real world? Mission Impossible. (It requires a doubling of the base amount every 10 years)

    What part of :Global Economy" do you not understand? How about "Post Peak Oil"? The people that staff "education" seem to be more INDOCTRINATED than educated. What was put in your heads at that 4+ year institution of higher learning?

    IF the concern is poverty - then Racine needs to lower tax rates, reduce government, and compete for it's share of private economic activity in the world. Used to be a time when a person could support themselves and a small family by selling newspapers and magazines, or running a hot dog stand. Of course, back then, City Hall and RUSD weren't filled with gold-plated boat anchors making $100,000+/yr and retiring after 20 years, or so.

    “I’m not sure why it’s a huge issue here and I actually don’t care about the reason,” Laing said. “We just have to do something.”

    Abolish RUSD, License parents/control breeding, end the wealth transfer schemes of politicians, utilize realistic rates of return, and live simply so that others may simply live.

  29. commander giro
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    commander giro - November 18, 2012 8:10 am
    So she blamed it on the dumb blacks. Hmmmm. They shell for Obama, thats one thing they are good at and listening to libral whites. Nothing will change...RAISE TAXES!
  30. Jonas
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    Jonas - November 18, 2012 7:39 am
    Maybe Unified should stop suspending or expelling the minorities and actually find ways to educate them. If Racine has the highest suspension/expulsion rate combined with the highest minority percentage, hasn't anyone put it together that this likely explains Racine's high unemployment and high crime rate?

    The Mack Center is a perfect example of Unified's epic failure. You suspend/expel every minority you can and put them in a school setting for max 2 hours a day. And then we wonder why kids (predominately minorities) are wandering around Racine in the afternoon.

    Socioeconomic/race isn't everything...Unified's own policies play a huge role.
  31. tell-the-truth-please
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    tell-the-truth-please - November 18, 2012 7:38 am
    An all time historic high of One Trillion dollars was spent last year on anti poverty Welfare cheks alone not counting all of the medicare ,medicaid, social security and bogus medical disability schemes. We now spend more on welfare than defense and K12 education !!!!

    Hey lets just ask Cogress to spend our entire 16 Trillion dollar budget next year on anti poverty programs so more young able bodied fathers can sit around all day and drink Colt 45 malt liquors and deal drugs......oh ya and then go out and knock up more young women.

    The prolem with people like Joeboy in my opinion is that many of then work in cushy antipoverty government programs with great salaries and benefits. Do they even realize that you could literally now give every person living in poverty in America a check for 50k and it would still be cheaper that trying to administer all of the programs that the bleeding heart social engineers have created.

    Only the Federal Goverenment could find a way to squander precious dollars so effectively !!!! How dare those mean spirited Regan conservatives in the peanut gallery question the enlightened liberati like Joeboy.

    A message to all you bleeding heart libs that want to end poverty in America...... no more bong hits before 6am on Sunday morning please...... thank you

  32. Green Racinereal
    Report Abuse
    Green Racinereal - November 18, 2012 7:36 am
    As the poor kids suffer Mayor John Dicker works hard to make sure Racine stays #1 in Unemployment. If your a FOJ the streets are made of Gold if not no deals for you for that matter do not think of opening a business near white folks.
  33. viking_hans
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    viking_hans - November 18, 2012 7:27 am
    Money does not make you more intelligent, or self reliant. The problem is the culture of the students and their families. When study and good grades are important, then performance will improve. Blame the students, their parent/parents and their choices, not everyone but them. It doesn't take a village to raise a child, that doesn't even work in Africa. It takes a student that knows to do the right thing and good, supportive parenting.
  34. Joeboy5471
    Report Abuse
    Joeboy5471 - November 18, 2012 6:03 am
    Eliminating poverty is the key to improving test scores in an urban environment and some rural locations in the USA. The social welfare system falls far short when it applies to children. The Federal aid directed to eliminate poverty in the US started declining in the 1980's. This was an arbitrary decision by the Reagan Administration. The Conservatives in the peanut gallery should look at the history of specific programs and policies and not just the monies spent. A dollar spent on these kids will save two or more dollars going forward after these children reach legal age.Just throwing money specifically targeted to education wihout eliminating poverty is money just thrown away.
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