Editorial: Achievement gap figures don’t tell the whole story

By Zia Kelly

This morning, the Lawrence Journal World published an article entitled “Numbers show achievement gap between Lawrence high schools.”

In the article, education reporter Rochelle Valverde presents a series of statistics comparing the academic and socio-economic conditions at LHS and Free State.

In every scenario listed, Free State won and LHS lost.

As the numbers indicate, Free State is more economically privileged and higher-achieving academically whereas LHS has more economically-disadvantaged students and lower academic achievements.


The strong correlation between income and academic achievement is no secret. The socio-economic differences across the 15th Street boundary are no secret.

So why would anyone be shocked?

While Valverde’s article makes a valid assessment of the gaps between the two schools, she uses stats that — while important and worth considering — should not be taken personally.

Before the town gets up-in-arms about a fairly narrow comparison, let’s put some things into perspective:

The article itself said the same resources are made available to students at each school. The difference is demographics.

Again, this isn’t new knowledge.

The number of students who qualify for free lunch at LHS is 11 percentage points higher than at Free State. Students enrolled in AP classes at Free State is 10 percentage points higher than at LHS.

As far as I’m concerned, this isn’t information worth making a “who’s better?” comparison over.

While the district is doing its best to accommodate the very real struggles of economically-disadvantaged students, such as providing more spots in the AVID program and creating a slightly higher staff-to-student ratio at LHS, Superintendent Rick Doll said himself in Valverde’s piece that the discrepancy still exists.

It should also be kept in mind that the only academic achievement is considered in the article. For the breadth of resources available at the district high schools, this is an incomplete comparison. There is no comment on co-curricular, extracurricular involvement or vocational training.

If both LHS and Free State students are provided with the same opportunities and assistance, judging the quality of the schools by an insignificant achievement gap is a shortsighted assessment.