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JULY 15 - JULY 23, 2014

When Socio-Economics are Factored NF Schools Ranks Competitively

By Cynthia Bianco

July 15, 2014

Cynthia Bianco
Supt. Niagara Falls School District

There are those in the community who like to cite Business First’s annual rankings of school districts and speak unfavorably about Niagara Falls’ low standing. For years, I’ve been trying to explain that comparing our community to the most affluent in the area is always a losing proposition, because the impacts of poverty affect academic performance. 

Nearby Grand Island and Niagara Falls? Apples and oranges. 

Finally, Business First has compiled a ranking for all school districts ranking them according to achievement AND socio-economic standing. And guess what? According to that comparative analysis, Niagara Falls out-ranks not only Grand Island, but North Tonawanda, and even Lewiston-Porter, and many others. Why? Because it compares student achievement relative to the poverty index. 

In order words, given the socio-economic environment of a given community, how well might residents expect students to achieve? And by that measure, Niagara Falls Schools are exceeding expectations. Some districts were ranked equally, for example, two or more districts may have ranked at 43, due to having similar achievement and socio-economic climate. 

With ninety-seven school districts ranked according to both achievement and demographics, the Niagara Falls School District was ranked at 36. That’s a measure of how well the District is doing in the climate in which it operates. Out of a possible five stars awarded by Business First, the District received three. 

Does this mean we are content? No. We strive daily, year after year, to help each and every student achieve mastery of all subject areas, to provide each with applied learning experiences, and to inspire each to be a life-long learner. 

What it does mean is that those outside the realm of public education also see what we do: poverty affects children. It’s common sense. 

We have worked hard to leverage the poverty of the community, to access whatever funds we can that are made available to low income communities to try to compensate for the lack of a stable tax base. The fact that the State provides such funding is another proof of the recognition that poverty matters.

But no amount of funding can erase the effects poverty brings: unstable homes, transience, a lack of educational resources in the home and recreational educational experiences. These things matter. 

Children who have witnessed or who do witness crime, violence, drug use-- all of the unfortunate social ills that poverty breeds are not coming to school focused on learning.

We work hard to refocus those students and to provide them with a means to improve their own lives. We are fortunate indeed to have the help and support of many active parents, members of the business community, not-for-profit organizations, and post-secondary institutions in this endeavor; their support is invaluable.

What would be even more helpful in this community would be everyone joining in the effort to lift up those of our youth who are struggling, instead of committing energy to undermining in their eyes the educational organization trying to help them. 





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