Reaching Higher NH’s Executive Director, Evelyn Aissa, spoke to attendees of the NH Fiscal Policy Institute’s annual conference, Building a Strong Foundation for a Prosperous Economy. Aissa remarked that “New Hampshire is a state full of contrasts” while reflecting on the disparity in education outcomes for students in a state that consistently ranks among the highest for graduation rates, math, and reading scores. Her statement resonated strongly and was revisited by many throughout the day.
Aissa illustrated the stark difference in outcomes across the Granite State by comparing the towns of Bow and Franklin. In Bow, the median income is $102,000, half of the adult residents hold college degrees, and only 6 percent of students qualify for free and reduced-priced lunch*. Students in Bow score grade levels two times above the national average and 95 percent of them graduate.
Alternately, in Franklin, the median income is $43,000, less than a fifth of adult residents hold college degrees, and about 58 percent of students qualify for free and reduced lunch*, students score grade levels below the national average, and only three-quarters of them graduate.
Aissa said that some 44,000 students, more than a quarter of the total enrollment in public schools, qualify for free and reduced lunch*. Their graduation rate is 76 percent – less than that of their peers across New England. Their dropout rate is 11.8 percent, compared to the 2 percent of other students.
Stressing that test scores measure performance, not intelligence, Aissa concluded that socioeconomic disparities affect educational achievement. “The higher the income and economic security, the higher overall student achievement,” she said.
*To qualify for free and reduced priced lunch in NH, students must be members of a household with an income of 185 percent of poverty, or $44,000 for a family of four.