Tackle Poverty’s Effects to Improve School Performance

Not enough food on the table or erratic housing can cause children to lose focus, increased anxiety and damaged mental health. Other common challenges for these students include more school absences and less parental support.

In sum, external factors, particularly poverty, matter more than other issues in shaping students’ academic success.

…State lawmakers can improve outcomes for impoverished students and the schools where they are concentrated with a coordinated set of strategies that respond to both external and internal factors.

  • Foster socioeconomic integration in schools
  • Invest adequate resources in low-income students and schools
  • Build a statewide principal pipeline
  • Enhance teacher compensation

…A review of schools’ 2016 grades by their poverty concentration highlights the connection between poverty and student outcomes.

…Of the 2,135 schools included in this analysis, 100 are counted as extreme-poverty, 446 are high-poverty, 969 are moderate-poverty and 620 are low-poverty.

None of the extreme poverty schools earned a grade of A or B, and all but one earned a D or F.

…Of Georgia schools where fewer than 25 percent of students live in poverty, about 70 percent received either an A or B. And in schools where fewer than 10 percent of children are poor, nearly 94 percent got an A or B.

Schools where the majority of students are low-income are also the schools with the most black and Hispanic students. Nearly all of the students in extreme poverty schools are black or Hispanic.

…When children are exposed to significant or constant stress, the architecture of their brain adapts to functioning in that state. They struggle to differentiate between normal stress sources and greater threats, often reacting strongly to minor problems or disagreements. Their working memories can be impaired, making it harder to complete multi-step assignments or activities. They often have difficulty controlling impulses and emotions and are at heightened risk of mental health problems. All of these make focusing on learning tasks and working collaboratively with peers harder.

…A child who is hungry is a child focused on finding something to eat, not learning.

…Low-income children often are not ready to learn when they enter the classroom, from kindergarten to twelfth grade. The issues causing them to struggle need to be addressed for children to master the knowledge and skills expected in K-12 schools and move on to postsecondary study and the workforce. At the same time, K-12 schools need to make all children feel safe and welcome and ensure they get the educational support needed to be successful learners.

[GA School] District officials also said a lack of instructional resources is a problem. Some said they are unable to provide teachers with materials and tools, including technology. Others reported an inability to provide intervention services to students who are behind while others said they lack resources to provide the variety of courses they would prefer, including STEM and enrichment.

…Several districts said the scope of material teachers are required to cover is difficult to squeeze into the allotted time. Two expressed concern that students are moved ahead before they are ready as a result.

…Students are expected to know and do far more today than 30 years ago. The state is not offering resources to match these elevated standards.

…Educating high-poverty and historically-marginalized students to high levels of academic achievement costs more. The state must match its expectations of these students with a renewed commitment to provide the additional resources they need to reach them—it is accountable for that.

…Eleven percent of responding districts said a lack of community resources is a problem, including enrichment programs and mental health services. Rural communities also lack transportation, an access barrier even where community organizations are in place.

…Squeezed districts also cut student programs, including elective courses like art and music, and intervention programs for low-performing students. A recent national review showed these cuts led to declines in student achievement, particularly in districts with more low-income students.

…The magnet schools are more racially and economically diverse than traditional schools, and their students do better academically than their peers in traditional schools.

…The district is creating magnet-like schools but without admission standards, with the aim of enrolling students from different socioeconomic groups. The initiative is too new to offer student achievement data but the schools are more economically diverse than traditional schools.

Tackle Poverty’s Effects to Improve School Performance


Restraint and Seclusion In Schools

The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights requires that school districts report every time a student is restrained or secluded. And while tens of thousands of cases are reported, many suspect those numbers fall short.

…For years, Fairfax County Public Schools also told the government that it never secluded or restrained students. But the WAMU investigation found hundreds of cases recorded in internal documents and letters that schools sent to parents.

…Teachers are coached to empathize with students and think about what someone would need if they were having a bad day.

“Most people would say [they need] space, someone to be kind to me, maybe to read a book … go for a walk,” Sanders says. “No one is going to say, ‘Well actually, I need someone to hold me against my will or lock me in a room by myself.’

Here’s What You Need to Know About Restraint and Seclusion In Schools : NPR