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Urban vs. suburban matters little when it comes to student test scores, Pioneer Press analysis finds

But do suburban kids really post better test results than their peers in city schools? Not if they’re from middle- and upper-income families. Scores are virtually the same for those students on statewide reading and math tests, no matter where they live, according to a Pioneer Press analysis.

The results show what education experts have known for decades: Poverty, and the social factors that often go with it, matters more than where you live.

The Pioneer Press analysis found that children living in poverty had significantly better scores in the suburbs than in the city. In the outer suburbs, about 64 percent of low-income kids met reading standards this year compared with 43 percent in the core cities.

As Pekel puts it, there’s poor and then there’s really poor. Poor children in the core cities are more likely to not have a stable residence and to bounce from home to home or shelter to shelter. Others don’t receive good medical or dental care, which can leave with untreated problems that grow from minor ailments to those bad enough to keep them at home or distract them from learning.

That doesn’t mean, however, that people should assume low-income students are destined to fail. As suburban populations change to look more like city schools, districts need to work together to advance their most-disadvantaged students instead of pitting them against each other, education experts say.

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