For years now there’s been a split between city of Madison residents generally and the children who attend its public schools.
Madison’s population is 78.7 percent white, according to Census Bureau figures, and only 18.6 percent of residents live in poverty. By contrast, only 42.7 percent of Madison School District students identified as white last school year, according to district figures reported to the state Department of Public Instruction, and 46 percent were classified as economically disadvantaged.
Four years after the BEP’s launch, there’s little sign that schools with poorer, more racially diverse student populations necessarily have more behavior problems — contradicting some of the common assumptions about urban schools.
Among elementary schools, for example, the school with the most documented “behavior events,” Orchard Ridge, was demographically similar to the school with the least, Sandburg.
Sandburg, on the Far East Side had a school population last year that was 61.3 percent low-income and 75.3 percent nonwhite, but only 0.28 events per student last year.
Orchard Ridge, on the Southwest Side, had a student population that was 56 percent low-income and 67.2 nonwhite, but nearly 12 events per student.
The district’s 12 main middle schools had between just more than two events per student and just fewer then five, with no obvious correlations between poorer, more diverse populations and more behavior problems.
A correlation between more racial diversity and poverty and worse behavior, however, was evident once students reached high school.
The district’s most ethnically diverse and poorest high schools in 2017-18, East and La Follette, saw the most behavior problems that year of the district’s five major high schools.
Related: Gangs and school violence forum.
Seeing the Forest: Unpacking the Relationship Between Madison School District (WI) Graduation Rates and Student Achievement.
Madison’s long term, disastrous reading results.