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There is free lunch, but what does it signify?
"Free and reduced-price lunch" is generally used to indicate concentrations of poverty and how these affect learning, but is it the best yardstick? asks Will Huntsberry for NPR. Does qualifying for the program necessarily indicate risk of falling through the cracks of American education? To qualify for the federal lunch program, families must be at or below 185 percent of the federal poverty level -- about $44,000 for a family of four -- which, depending on location, is not always impoverished. The U.S. Census Bureau measures actual poverty, but for the purposes of education research, census tracts don't align with district boundaries or attendance zones for individual schools. Yet poverty is not the only relevant factor for how children will fare in school. Other key factors: education level of parents, parental occupations, and immigration status. Still, absent reliable, easily obtained data on these alternatives, "F&R" serves as the de facto determination of which students are at risk. Finer-grained data are harder to obtain, since parents may not want to offer it; districts also need new systems for collecting and maintaining information. In the meantime, one way to slightly improve analysis would be separating program participants into two categories: those receiving free lunch, and those receiving reduced-price. The threshold for free lunch is 130 percent of the federal poverty level. More
Source: Public Education News Blast
Published by LEAP
Los Angeles Education Partnership (LAEP) is an education support organization that works as a collaborative partner in high-poverty communities.