For decades, schools nationwide have collected household income data to identify those eligible for free and reduced-price lunch programs. State leaders have long used this information as a proxy for student economic disadvantage—yet this data is insufficient to understand and address students’ needs. Measures based on FRL data lack critical nuance about students’ experiences and have become an increasingly inaccurate proxy for families’ economic disadvantage. As leaders work to provide students with necessary support and understand the systemic factors that influence poverty, access to opportunities, and individual outcomes, they need the full picture of the challenges that students face.
This resource is an exploration of the limitations of current economic disadvantage measures and considerations for leaders to improve measurement approaches as they develop long-term solutions.