Monday, November 30, 2009

Poverty levels for school districts in Oregon

The U.S. Census Bureau recently released statistics that measured poverty for the nation's school districts. For the state of Oregon, the census figures show that rural areas of the state have the highest levels of poor children. Meanwhile, the Portland metro area and other towns had lower levels of the poor.

From The Oregonian, writer Betsy Hammond breaks down the numbers. Oregon Live also has this file that lists poverty levels for all of Oregon's schools.

Statewide, the lowest rates are in Lake Oswego, Sherwood, Corbett and West Linn-Wilsonville. Six percent or fewer of school-age children in those districts live in households below the poverty level, the bureau reported this month.

On the flip side are Woodburn, nearly every school district in southeast Oregon's Harney County, the Powers school district in southwest Oregon and the Three Rivers school district around Grants Pass. One-quarter to one-third of all school-age children in those areas live below the poverty line, defined as income of $22,050 a year for a family of four.

Schools face a much greater challenge getting students to read and do math at grade level in high-poverty communities. A federal report released last week showed that a student who attends a school serving mainly low-income and working-class students is about 12 times more likely to attend a chronically low-performing school than a student whose school serves mostly moderate- or high-income students.

"Whenever you are dealing with students at risk, you have issues," said Peter Maluk, director of federal programs for the Three Rivers district. "We see more and more needy families, and we need to be sensitive to helping them and giving their kids a solid education."

Maluk's district won competitive federal grants to help serve homeless students and to offer after-school academic and enrichment programs. He said he is proud of the results Three Rivers has achieved teaching low-income students.

When schools do a good job, they can be the best place for children from poor families, said Holly Pruett, executive director of Stand for Children in Oregon.

"For children living in poverty, schools are the essential lifeline to the skills and the inspiration to be able to succeed in life," she said.

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