The Ferguson, Bovaird & Mueller, 2007; Gordon

The Impact of Poverty on Education

            School readiness reflects a child’s
ability to flourish academically in a school environment. School readiness
requires cognitive skills, language skills, physical well-being and emotional
health, appropriate motor development, and social competence. Unfortunately,
many fall short when it comes to academic achievement. Since the 1960s, it has
become more evident that many of those children come from impoverished
communities. Many studies have strongly suggested that children from
lower-income households tend to perform academically much lower than those from
higher-income households (Engle & Black, 2008; Ferguson, Bovaird &
Mueller, 2007; Wolf, Magnuson, & Kimbro, 2017). Because of this,
researchers believe that it is imperative to understand the correlation. Many
researchers believe that in understanding this correlation they can reduce the
academic decline in low SES students. In attempts to eliminate this problem,
researchers study the impact of poverty on education (Engle & Black, 2008;
Ferguson, Bovaird & Mueller, 2007; Gordon & Cui, 2016; Lacour &
Tissington, 2011).

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Contributing Factors

            First to understand poverty, one
must define it. According to Engle & Black (2008), several definitions are
provided in regard to poverty. Poverty is often defined in economic terms, or
as a social shortcoming or handicap and is outlined using measures of income.
However, many argue that poverty doesn’t only mean the lack of material asset,
but also the lack of good health, well-being, capabilities, education,
resources, social belonging, cultural identity, and dignity (Ferguson, Bovaird
& Mueller, 2007). With the gap continuing to widen between those from lower
and higher income households, researchers have studied the household structure
of students from impoverished backgrounds and its impact on their academic
performance (Engle & Black, 2008; Lacour & Tissington, 2011). There are
those who theorize that there are a variety of poverty-related factors that
impact academic achievement to consider (Gordon & Cui, 2016; Lacour &
Tissington, 2011). It is believed that when studying poverty in in relation to
one’s life, one must consider contributing factors such as the incidence,
duration, depth, the community characteristics (e.g., neighborhood crime and
school) and the impact poverty has on the child’s social relationships (i.e.,
their parents, friends, relatives, and neighbors) (Engle & Black, 2008;
Gordon & Cui, 2016).

            Researchers like Gordon & Cui
(2016) and Lacour & Tissington, (2011) support the concept of poverty in
families. They focus on how imperative it is for the need of low SES families
to focus on immediate basic needs such as food and shelter and how it becomes a
hindrance. The need to primarily focus on basic needs put them at a tremendous
disadvantage to their opposite counterparts. Low SES families’ ability to
prioritize school readiness is weakened when faced with stress to obtain
immediate needs (Lacour & Tissington, 2011). Their focus blurs the concept
that the benefits that come with education, are long term. With problems like
this, these children often lack the encouragement needed to prepare them for
school and to excel in it (Engle & Black, 2008; Ferguson, Bovaird &
Mueller, 2007; Gordon & Cui, 2016; Lacour & Tissington, 2011). Other
problems in low-income families are parental irregularity (i.e., absent parent
or loss parent), lack of routine, lack of and/or poor role models, lack of
supervision, and frequent changes of primary caregivers. (Ferguson, Bovaird
& Mueller, 2007; Lacour & Tissington, 2011). Studies show that children
who come from low SES backgrounds are more likely to have been born to a
teenage mother and/or a single mother and about only half of children live with
both of their parents, or a two parent / caregiver home- which usually means
there is only one source of income for the home (Ferguson, Bovaird & Mueller,
2007; Lacour & Tissington, 2011). About 52 percent of those from low SES
families have parents who are college graduates in comparison to 83 percent of
those who are high SES (Lacour & Tissington, 2011). Studies show that
children of less educated parents are at risk of developing more emotional and
physical problems (Ferguson, Bovaird & Mueller, 2007; Gordon & Cui,
2016; Lacour & Tissington, 2011). These children are more likely to report
poor health, higher obesity rates, and have more mental and behavioral health
problems (Lacour & Tissington, 2011). Thus, evidence suggests that most
that children of lower SES begin school at a cognitive and behavioral
disadvantage than their higher SES peers (Engle & Black, 2008; Gordon &
Cui, 2016; Lacour & Tissington, 2011; Wolf, Magnuson, & Kimbro, 2017).

            Many support that although poverty
may play a role in the growing gap in academic achievement, is not the dominant
factor (Engle & Black, 2008; Gordon & Cui, 2016; Lacour &
Tissington, 2011). Some researchers theorize that the gap in academic
achievement appears to have grown partly because of an increase in the
correlation between family socioeconomic status and children’s academic
achievement (Gordon & Cui, 2016; Lacour & Tissington, 2011; Wolf, Magnuson,
& Kimbro, 2017). Moreover, evidence from multiple studies suggests that
this may be in part a result of the increase of parental and familial
investment in children’s cognitive development and building of social networks
(Ferguson, Bovaird & Mueller, 2007; Lacour & Tissington, 2011).

Low SES vs High SES

            The challenges such children face
compared to their more fortunate peers are immense. The achievement gap between
children from high- and low- SES households is roughly thirty to forty percent
(Gordon & Cui, 2016). Researchers have found that on the day that children
start kindergarten, children from families of low SES are already more than
twelve months behind the children of higher SES in their comprehension of math
and reading (Lacour & Tissington, 2011). Even some of the strongest set of
students from disadvantaged backgrounds, who begin kindergarten with strong
math and reading comprehension as high socioeconomic status children, still
fall behind in academic achievement (Ferguson, Bovaird & Mueller, 2007;
Wolf, Magnuson, & Kimbro, 2017).

            Due to having much lower SES,
children are less likely to afford private school or the many developmental and
social enhancement opportunities (e.g., tutoring, extracurricular activities)
that higher-educated and richer parents provide for their children (Gordon
& Cui, 2016). Wolf, Magnuson, & Kimbro (2017), theorize that one of the
reasons why children perform well in school is because they are enrolled in
after-school programs. Parents with higher SES tend to enroll their children
more frequently in after-school programs (Gordon & Cui, 2016). Many believe
that the reason behind this is that parents want to provide their children with
more opportunities to learn. After school programs provide children with more
one-on-one help, especially for those who are struggling in different subjects
(Ferguson, Bovaird & Mueller, 2007). Those of higher SES tend to take
advantage of these programs much more than those of lower SES (Gordon &
Cui, 2016). The students with low SES who struggle with their subjects, usually
cannot afford these programs or afford to pay for tutors. The lack of money for
these enhancements is believed to be a principal reason why many low SES
children continue to struggle and fall behind their higher SES peers (Gordon
& Cui, 2016; Wolf, Magnuson, & Kimbro, 2017).

            Well-funded schools where the
children of high SES are believed to have a much easier time attracting
well-qualified teachers and staff in comparison to schools that serve low SES children
(Ferguson, Bovaird & Mueller, 2007; Lacour & Tissington, 2011).
Ferguson, Bovaird & Mueller (2007), argue that teachers in private schools
are much more likely to have a graduate or doctrine degree, while public school
teachers are only required to have a bachelor’s and /or a master’s in their
subject. So, because of the high quality of teachers, the level of educational
material provided is much more difficult than for that for public school. Low
SES students attend public schools that are about 33 percent more likely
staffed with inexperienced teachers that do not provide the material needed to
ensure their readiness for higher education according to Lacour &
Tissington (2011). Some argue that some classrooms with more low SES students
are more problematic to teach, therefore teachers are forced to provide more
basic education because low SES children are often far behind (Ferguson,
Bovaird & Mueller, 2007). Consequently, low SES children academic
performance often suffers and their development is restricted so they are also
more likely to be held back a grade (Lacour & Tissington, 2011).

            With being more financially stable,
most high SES families are able to afford tuition for their children to attend
private schools (Ferguson, Bovaird & Mueller, 2007). Parents with low SES
tend to enroll their children in public schools because they are free
(Ferguson, Bovaird & Mueller, 2007). In private schools, classes are much
smaller than public schools with 15 to 20 students per classroom compared to public
school classes which often have 25 to 30. Therefore, in public school, teachers
struggle with providing one-on-one interactions (Ferguson, Bovaird &
Mueller, 2007). Students benefit from having one-on-one interactions to receive
a higher level of teaching and attention in class. Financial assistance from
the government also plays a part. The government provides the assistance that
is needed to keep public schools up and running. Often the government is
cutting budgets for public school. In comparison, since private schools charge
tuition for per student, they raise enough money to avoid having to rely
heavily on the government for financial support (Ferguson, Bovaird &
Mueller, 2007).

            Academics have argued that
standardized tests are also a contributing factor. Many believe that
standardized testing is economically and privileged biased (Gordon & Cui,
2016). Many theorize that the tests are biased because the design of the tests
is said to be based on material from a privileged vantage point that is incomprehensible
to those from socio-economically disadvantaged schools and communities. A
recent study conducted by Wolf, Magnuson, & Kimbro (2017), concluded that
because of this, students from lower SES often score significantly lower on
measures of math, and communication proficiencies and symbol usage than that of
children from higher SES. Researchers have also established that children from
lower SES households often score lower on receptive vocabulary tests than
higher SES children (Engle & Black, 2008; Wolf, Magnuson, & Kimbro,

to Improve Educational Outcomes

            It is evident that the effects that
poverty has on education need to be changed. Those who advocate for this change
believe that existing power held by the those in high SES ranks should give the
power to make change to the community leaders who have the resources to make a
change in their communities to improve the education system (Engle & Black,
2008; Ferguson, Bovaird & Mueller, 2007). The focus on SES and its impact
on education are critical when understanding how to serve underserved
communities. Many like Engle & Black (2008), argue that the generous
support from policymakers that are responsible for developing policies and
standards on education are rarely coming from leaders within the community that
truly understand these decisions. Unfortunately, impoverished communities whose
voice is often left unheard, just don’t have decision making authority or
access to much-needed resources. Supporters theorize that one of the most
fundamental ways to battle the impact of poverty in the classroom is by being
more empathetic of students before judging them and their abilities (Ferguson,
Bovaird & Mueller, 2007).

            According to Gordon & Cui
(2016), not only being more empathic with students but implementing
interventions to improve school readiness, familial support, and children’s
development reduces poverty-related disparities. These interventions include
early intervention, family-based programs, encouraging parents to support early
learning, and utilizing programs that support children’s development prior to
starting preschool (Gordon & Cui, 2016). Interventions must go as far as
improving the quality of teachers and curriculums taught in classrooms, and
making an investment in providing students with resources to struggling
students to bring them up to par with their peers (Engle & Black, 2008;
Ferguson, Bovaird & Mueller, 2007; Gordon & Cui, 2016). Regarding
college education, researchers believe that early interventions could help
increase college graduation. By using early interventions, it would help
support reducing proficiency gaps that appear before college and increase the
nation’s college graduation by proving easier terms on student loans or proving
them with more financial aid (Engle & Black, 2008; Ferguson, Bovaird &
Mueller, 2007).

            In conclusion, I believe that if
students with lower SES could receive some financial support from the
government to help them pay for higher quality material for curriculums,
after-school programs, college, and tutors, it would help them to perform
better and succeed in school just as their higher SES peers do. The government
can assist by making school programs free. The more that students are able to
join school programs or get a tutor, the greater their chances to excel in
school. No matter the SES, all students should all be given the same resources
and tools to help them and all be held to the same high expectations. I also
understand and support that to encourage change for low SES students to
flourish in school, these changes need to be made. Changes need to be made
within the low SES family households, the government, and in the education
system in order to eliminate the impact of poverty on education.


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