Department of Education Eyeing Changes to Definitions of Poverty of School Children

steel drumsAt last month’s American Educational Research Association (AERA) conference in San Francisco, one item discussed was a National Center on Education Statistics (NCES) white paper, which proposes changes to how the United States Department of Education classifies the socioeconomic status (SES) of children.

Under the NCES proposal — originally published last November — federal government agencies would incorporate U.S. Census information — including data on average neighborhood home size and local unemployment rates — as factors that could alter results on National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) tests. The plan would also connect children’s test scores with broader indicators of SES, including the number of times a family has relocated over a year’s time as well as whether a child’s parents rent or own their current home.

Currently, the NCES uses an anonymous, 13-item questionnaire, in conjunction with schools’ federal free-lunch records, to measure children’s SES.

Brookings Institution Education Researcher Tom Loveless said that using free-lunch data is not an accurate gage of student poverty however. Describing the current measurements in USA Today, he called them “crude indicators” of poverty; although the current standards note parental income, the same measurements tell very little about parents’ educational levels or types of employment.

The National School Lunch Program serves more than 31 million children, the United States Department of Agriculture reports. However, the NCES believes that the program only serves about 80 percent of the nation’s eligible young people.

“It is not entirely predictable what changes might accompany the introduction of a new SES measure,” the NCES paper concluded. “But if such a measure proves to be more valid than current measures, it is possible that more attention could be given to the importance of the SES-achievement relationship and to a more equitable distribution of educational resources.” 

Photo credit:  John Amis, UGA College of Ag / Flikr 


Youth Today is the only independent, internationally distributed digital media publication that is read by thousands of professionals in the youth service field.

Youth Today adheres to high-quality journalistic standards, providing readers with professional news coverage dedicated to examining a wide spectrum of complex issues in the youth services industry from legislation to community-based youth work.


Our organization retains full authority over editorial content to protect the best journalistic and business interests of our organization. We maintain a firewall between news coverage decisions and sources of all revenue.


We are committed to transparency in every aspect of funding our organization. Donors may be quoted, mentioned or featured in our stories. Our news judgments are made independently – not based on or influenced by donors. Accepting financial support does not mean we endorse donors or their products, services or opinions…(read more)

Recent Comments




Kennesaw State University Mountain Logo & Ceneter for Sustainable Journalism Logo
LOGO Institute for Nonprofit News 3 turquoise boxes stacked in "J" shape

Copyright © 2018 Youth Today and MVP Themes --- Published by Center for Sustainable Journalism,
Kennesaw State University, 1200 Chastain Blvd. Suite 310, Kennesaw GA 30144

To Top