The Ferguson, Bovaird & Mueller, 2007; Gordon

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Last updated: July 24, 2019

The Impact of Poverty on Education             School readiness reflects a child’sability to flourish academically in a school environment.

School readinessrequires cognitive skills, language skills, physical well-being and emotionalhealth, appropriate motor development, and social competence. Unfortunately,many fall short when it comes to academic achievement. Since the 1960s, it hasbecome more evident that many of those children come from impoverishedcommunities. Many studies have strongly suggested that children fromlower-income households tend to perform academically much lower than those fromhigher-income households (Engle & Black, 2008; Ferguson, Bovaird , 2007; Wolf, Magnuson, & Kimbro, 2017). Because of this,researchers believe that it is imperative to understand the correlation. Manyresearchers believe that in understanding this correlation they can reduce theacademic 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 , 2011).

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Contributing Factors            First to understand poverty, onemust define it. According to Engle & Black (2008), several definitions areprovided in regard to poverty. Poverty is often defined in economic terms, oras 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 lowerand higher income households, researchers have studied the household structureof students from impoverished backgrounds and its impact on their academicperformance (Engle & Black, 2008; Lacour & Tissington, 2011). There arethose who theorize that there are a variety of poverty-related factors thatimpact academic achievement to consider (Gordon & Cui, 2016; Lacour &Tissington, 2011). It is believed that when studying poverty in in relation toone’s life, one must consider contributing factors such as the incidence,duration, depth, the community characteristics (e.

g., neighborhood crime andschool) 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 infamilies. They focus on how imperative it is for the need of low SES familiesto focus on immediate basic needs such as food and shelter and how it becomes ahindrance. The need to primarily focus on basic needs put them at a tremendousdisadvantage to their opposite counterparts. Low SES families’ ability toprioritize school readiness is weakened when faced with stress to obtainimmediate needs (Lacour & Tissington, 2011). Their focus blurs the conceptthat the benefits that come with education, are long term. With problems likethis, these children often lack the encouragement needed to prepare them forschool and to excel in it (Engle & Black, 2008; Ferguson, Bovaird , 2007; Gordon & Cui, 2016; Lacour & Tissington, 2011). Otherproblems in low-income families are parental irregularity (i.e.

, absent parentor loss parent), lack of routine, lack of and/or poor role models, lack ofsupervision, and frequent changes of primary caregivers. (Ferguson, Bovaird& Mueller, 2007; Lacour & Tissington, 2011). Studies show that childrenwho come from low SES backgrounds are more likely to have been born to ateenage mother and/or a single mother and about only half of children live withboth of their parents, or a two parent / caregiver home- which usually meansthere is only one source of income for the home (Ferguson, Bovaird & Mueller,2007; Lacour & Tissington, 2011). About 52 percent of those from low SESfamilies have parents who are college graduates in comparison to 83 percent ofthose who are high SES (Lacour & Tissington, 2011). Studies show thatchildren of less educated parents are at risk of developing more emotional andphysical problems (Ferguson, Bovaird & Mueller, 2007; Gordon & Cui,2016; Lacour & Tissington, 2011). These children are more likely to reportpoor health, higher obesity rates, and have more mental and behavioral healthproblems (Lacour & Tissington, 2011). Thus, evidence suggests that mostthat children of lower SES begin school at a cognitive and behavioraldisadvantage than their higher SES peers (Engle & Black, 2008; Gordon , 2016; Lacour & Tissington, 2011; Wolf, Magnuson, & Kimbro, 2017).

            Many support that although povertymay play a role in the growing gap in academic achievement, is not the dominantfactor (Engle & Black, 2008; Gordon & Cui, 2016; Lacour , 2011). Some researchers theorize that the gap in academicachievement appears to have grown partly because of an increase in thecorrelation between family socioeconomic status and children’s academicachievement (Gordon & Cui, 2016; Lacour & Tissington, 2011; Wolf, Magnuson,& Kimbro, 2017). Moreover, evidence from multiple studies suggests thatthis may be in part a result of the increase of parental and familialinvestment 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 facecompared to their more fortunate peers are immense. The achievement gap betweenchildren from high- and low- SES households is roughly thirty to forty percent(Gordon & Cui, 2016). Researchers have found that on the day that childrenstart kindergarten, children from families of low SES are already more thantwelve months behind the children of higher SES in their comprehension of mathand reading (Lacour & Tissington, 2011). Even some of the strongest set ofstudents from disadvantaged backgrounds, who begin kindergarten with strongmath and reading comprehension as high socioeconomic status children, stillfall 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 andsocial 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 thereasons why children perform well in school is because they are enrolled inafter-school programs. Parents with higher SES tend to enroll their childrenmore frequently in after-school programs (Gordon & Cui, 2016). Many believethat the reason behind this is that parents want to provide their children withmore opportunities to learn.

After school programs provide children with moreone-on-one help, especially for those who are struggling in different subjects(Ferguson, Bovaird & Mueller, 2007). Those of higher SES tend to takeadvantage of these programs much more than those of lower SES (Gordon , 2016). The students with low SES who struggle with their subjects, usuallycannot afford these programs or afford to pay for tutors. The lack of money forthese enhancements is believed to be a principal reason why many low SESchildren continue to struggle and fall behind their higher SES peers (Gordon& Cui, 2016; Wolf, Magnuson, & Kimbro, 2017).            Well-funded schools where thechildren of high SES are believed to have a much easier time attractingwell-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 schoolsare much more likely to have a graduate or doctrine degree, while public schoolteachers are only required to have a bachelor’s and /or a master’s in theirsubject. So, because of the high quality of teachers, the level of educationalmaterial provided is much more difficult than for that for public school. LowSES students attend public schools that are about 33 percent more likelystaffed with inexperienced teachers that do not provide the material needed toensure their readiness for higher education according to Lacour (2011). Some argue that some classrooms with more low SES studentsare more problematic to teach, therefore teachers are forced to provide morebasic education because low SES children are often far behind (Ferguson,Bovaird & Mueller, 2007).

Consequently, low SES children academicperformance often suffers and their development is restricted so they are alsomore 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 attendprivate schools (Ferguson, Bovaird & Mueller, 2007). Parents with low SEStend to enroll their children in public schools because they are free(Ferguson, Bovaird & Mueller, 2007). In private schools, classes are muchsmaller than public schools with 15 to 20 students per classroom compared to publicschool classes which often have 25 to 30.

Therefore, in public school, teachersstruggle with providing one-on-one interactions (Ferguson, Bovaird , 2007). Students benefit from having one-on-one interactions to receivea higher level of teaching and attention in class. Financial assistance fromthe government also plays a part. The government provides the assistance thatis needed to keep public schools up and running. Often the government iscutting budgets for public school. In comparison, since private schools chargetuition for per student, they raise enough money to avoid having to relyheavily on the government for financial support (Ferguson, Bovaird , 2007).            Academics have argued thatstandardized tests are also a contributing factor. Many believe thatstandardized testing is economically and privileged biased (Gordon & Cui,2016).

Many theorize that the tests are biased because the design of the testsis said to be based on material from a privileged vantage point that is incomprehensibleto those from socio-economically disadvantaged schools and communities. Arecent study conducted by Wolf, Magnuson, & Kimbro (2017), concluded thatbecause of this, students from lower SES often score significantly lower onmeasures of math, and communication proficiencies and symbol usage than that ofchildren from higher SES. Researchers have also established that children fromlower SES households often score lower on receptive vocabulary tests thanhigher SES children (Engle & Black, 2008; Wolf, Magnuson, & Kimbro,2017).

Interventionsto Improve Educational Outcomes            It is evident that the effects thatpoverty has on education need to be changed. Those who advocate for this changebelieve that existing power held by the those in high SES ranks should give thepower to make change to the community leaders who have the resources to make achange in their communities to improve the education system (Engle & Black,2008; Ferguson, Bovaird & Mueller, 2007). The focus on SES and its impacton education are critical when understanding how to serve underservedcommunities. Many like Engle & Black (2008), argue that the generoussupport from policymakers that are responsible for developing policies andstandards on education are rarely coming from leaders within the community thattruly understand these decisions. Unfortunately, impoverished communities whosevoice is often left unheard, just don’t have decision making authority oraccess to much-needed resources. Supporters theorize that one of the mostfundamental ways to battle the impact of poverty in the classroom is by beingmore 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 implementinginterventions to improve school readiness, familial support, and children’sdevelopment reduces poverty-related disparities.

These interventions includeearly intervention, family-based programs, encouraging parents to support earlylearning, and utilizing programs that support children’s development prior tostarting preschool (Gordon & Cui, 2016). Interventions must go as far asimproving the quality of teachers and curriculums taught in classrooms, andmaking an investment in providing students with resources to strugglingstudents to bring them up to par with their peers (Engle & Black, 2008;Ferguson, Bovaird & Mueller, 2007; Gordon & Cui, 2016). Regardingcollege education, researchers believe that early interventions could helpincrease college graduation. By using early interventions, it would helpsupport reducing proficiency gaps that appear before college and increase thenation’s college graduation by proving easier terms on student loans or provingthem with more financial aid (Engle & Black, 2008; Ferguson, Bovaird , 2007).             In conclusion, I believe that ifstudents with lower SES could receive some financial support from thegovernment to help them pay for higher quality material for curriculums,after-school programs, college, and tutors, it would help them to performbetter and succeed in school just as their higher SES peers do. The governmentcan assist by making school programs free. The more that students are able tojoin school programs or get a tutor, the greater their chances to excel inschool. No matter the SES, all students should all be given the same resourcesand tools to help them and all be held to the same high expectations.

I alsounderstand and support that to encourage change for low SES students toflourish in school, these changes need to be made. Changes need to be madewithin the low SES family households, the government, and in the educationsystem in order to eliminate the impact of poverty on education.

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