Poverty and Academic Success


Nathan Rossi, Staff Writer

The US News releases a ranking of the best high schools in the United States every year. Where Central Bucks High School South falls on the list compared to other schools, including Esperanza Academy Charter High School, suggests that academic success is not determined by poverty rates.

The rankings are decided by numerous components, including math and English proficiency, college readiness, AP test participation and results and graduation rates, which affect the US News best high schools rank.

Lori Walinsky, the Director of Curriculum at Esperanza Academy Charter School in Philadelphia, suggested academic success starts early in a student’s education, stating, “It starts at the lowest level possible, and by not putting a cap on their achievement.”

She went on to say, “We have a mission here… we can do it, and we can do it well.” Not only is Esperanza’s mission to get students into an atmosphere conducive to learning at a young age, it aims to help students coming from the public school system; some are “three or four grades below grade level, but data shows we’re closing that achievement gap.”

Esperanza opened both a middle school and cyber school in 2012 and was granted the ability to open an elementary school starting in 2017, after making their pitch to the School Reform Commission of Philadelphia. Esperanza Academy High School currently ranks fourth among all Charter Schools in Pennsylvania and has received a silver medal on the US News ranking.

CB South ranks a handful of places above Esperanza on the US News list, considering CB South is ranked at 45th in the state of Pennsylvania and Esperanza placed 73rd in the state. However, despite a similar ranking, the two schools are fundamentally different.

CB South placed well on the US News best high school’s list, due to high proficiency in both math and English: CB South tested 29% better than the state average in math and 21% better than the average in English. In addition, 82% of AP test takers passed their tests, and students placed well on the College Readiness Index.

Not only did CB South receive a high ranking on the list, so did Central Bucks West and East. Ranking 14th in the state of Pennsylvania, and receiving a silver medal rank, was Central Bucks High School- West, which placed slightly ahead of East at 30th in the state.

Esperanza’s Director of Curriculum Lori Walinsky provided key aspects of the School’s environment that make it entirely different than South, saying, “There’s a socio-economic gap. There are a number of kids who don’t have internet at home; they’re not on a level playing field. This doesn’t mean they’re victims, we tell them ‘you can rise above this’.”

Esperanza’s total percentage of economically disadvantaged students is at a staggering 88%, whereas that number at South is 10%. In order to provide Esperanza’s students the best education possible and combat the poverty level they take an individualized approach, for example, offering ten AP classes, the most in Philadelphia.

Educators use the US News rankings in order to gauge their success, progress, and opportunity to improve. However, the ranking is by no means to provide a gauge to determine the quality of education at a school.

CB South doesn’t face the same challenges that Esperanza Academy Charter High School does, and the same goes for any differing types of schools whether traditional public, public charter, or private schools.

The statistics provided by US News show that varying poverty rates creates a vastly different school environments, as suggested by Lori Walinsky.

It is difficult to come to the conclusion that one certain type of school works better than another, it’s like comparing apples to oranges. However, if one thing is for sure, being recognized as a part of the top tier in Pennsylvania schools is indicative of academic success.