Eric Hanushek (1986, 1996), whose influential work has been widely embraced by economists, contends that there is little support for the view that school inputs or expenditures determine student outcomes. The Hanushek findings have been challenged in many quarters (Hedges & Greenwald, 1996; Hedges, Laine, & Greenwald, 1994), but remain central to the debate about poor achievement among African Americans. The second view is more ambivalent about school resources. The explicit variable of concern is concentrations of poverty within the school. School poverty, in this view, exerts a direct impact on student achievement. There are a variety of reasons why school poverty might affect student achievement, particularly Black student achievement. One possibility is that concentrated poverty is related to lack of political access. Using data from Texas, Polinard, Wrinkle, and Meier (1995) conclude that poverty in a school district lowers the ratio of Black-to-White pass rates on the statewide achievement examination. One could interpret the Polinard et al. findings as suggesting that high- poverty school districts have lower levels of political capital that can be translated into positive outcomes for Black children. Another reason school poverty might affect student performance is that school poverty may be a proxy for social capital. Hedges and Greenwald (1996) argue that social capital-in the form of home environment conducive to parental investments in their children's learning-can substitute for school resources. The notable decline of social capital-particularly among minority children-helps to explain how and why it is possible to have declining test scores while school resources are increasing. If one conjectures that social capital is lower the higher the concentration of school poverty, then the hypothesized inverse relationship between school poverty and test scores emerges. Still another reason why school poverty might reduce student achievement is that concentrations of poverty reduce the effectiveness of teacher resources. The concentration of poverty within a school strains existing resources causing a displacement of teaching activities to other functions-such as discipline, maintaining order, and attention to home and family problems. Whatever the reason, there is mounting empirical evidence that school poverty affects student performance. For example, Betts and Morell (1999) estimate a model of college grade point average and find that students from high schools with large proportions of students receiving Aid to Families with Dependent Children have lower grades in college, all other things being equal. Another variation on this theme is that concentrations of poverty capture aspects of school climate (Esposito, 1999). While there is accumulating evidence from other studies that school poverty, as measured by the percentage of students receiving free or reduced price lunches, is inversely related to student achievement (e. g., Caldas & Bankston, 1997, 1999), the link to racial gaps in test scores remains tenuous. The presumption is that since Blacks are more likely than Whites to be poor and to
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- Winter '18
- Brown v. Board of Education, Journal of Negro Education