A Concord-based non-profit that researches public education in New Hampshire has released a report on the most significant factors contributing to student performance across the state.
The report from Reaching Higher, titled “The Whole Picture of Public Education in New Hampshire,” analyzed years of records from the U.S. Census, the N.H. Department of Education and other sources, and found that fourth grade student performance was most strongly associated with individual family income.
As the students aged, the district residents' average level of educational attainment became a more significant predictor of student performance. Reaching Higher attributed this in in part to the role of communities in the lives of older students, who can interact with mentors and bosses through jobs, sports, volunteer work, and other learning opportunities.
The report complicates the assumption by some public school advocates that New Hampshire’s student performance scores can be improved solely by increasing per-pupil expenditures.
For instance, it found that that one of the most significant correlations with student performance for highschoolers was teacher salary (districts with higher average teacher salary tend to see higher test scores and graduation rates), but a district's average salary had no correlation with per-pupil spending.
The report also found that in spite of the state’s reputation for strong public education, inequalities persists and, in some cases, are growing.
Districts with higher property wealth and stronger economies boasted higher teacher salaries, and the disparity in teacher salaries between poor districts and wealthy districts has increased in the last decade.
In some of the state’s poorest districts, average teacher salary in 2017 hadn’t yet risen to the average teacher salary a decade before in the state’s richest districts.
The report also found that from 2009 to 2017, the percentage of students in poverty rose by 40 percent.
Maps representing the data by district can be found on Reaching Higher's website.