According to the Oxford University dictionary poverty is the “state of being extremely poor,” or “the state of being insufficient in amount.” This particular issue is, and had been a, problem in America fluctuating with the passing years. What’s more is the effect it has on children living in homes plagued with poverty. Not only does poverty affect the child’s well being, but it impacts their education as well. In general, children from homes living under the poverty line have poorer performance in school. Such performance has also been linked as far back as cognitive and emotional development which is lower in poverty stricken children than those children who live in homes whose income is above the poverty line. Although data has not yet been gathered to give specific details of all the cognitive effects, especially in older children, it is clear that the effects are not only present but threatening to the well being of the children involved.
So what is it exactly that creates a rift between children from low income homes and those living above the poverty line? For one, these children lack the stability that comes with a higher income home. This means having the things that other children have from adequate nutrition to weather appropriate clothing. In addition, less income generally means there are less opportunities for educational activities and learning experiences. In this way low income students have less experience to draw upon when learning new concepts. As a result it can also mean fewer chances to apply the newly acquired knowledge, and in turn retention of this knowledge can be minimized.
As stated Greg Duncan and Jeanne Brooks-Gunn in their article on this issue, “Family income appears to be more strongly related to children’s ability and achievement than to their emotional outcomes.” Keeping this in mind it is not hard to understand why children raised in a low income environment often suffer from more disabilities and developmental delays. As a matter of fact, they are 1.3 times as likely to have one of these problems. Furthermore, these are less likely to be treated if not caught in the public school system because parents are unable to afford special help, training, or any other means of assistance for their child. It is not uncommon for children in these circumstances to also suffer from emotional and behavioral problems. Along with this factor lowering the chances of a satisfactory education is the fact that these children also have higher incidences of adverse health. With such health problems children are less likely to be present at school causing lower grades and, more importantly, less acquired knowledge. As is blatantly obvious, it becomes impossible to learn when one is never present in class. Absenteeism is a huge problem that can lead to the failing of a course without even having the chance to try.
As a little background information we’ll now discuss how the poverty line is determined and the growing rates in recent years. Such information can help one to better understand why this issue is becoming a greater problem in education today, and what we can do to being creating an effective solution. To begin with, the census bureau of the United States routinely calculates the poverty lines for families during their census every four years. This number is not only calculated based on the total income of the family, but on other details the family provides as well. One such detail is the age of the people running the household, and the number of people in the family. The official poverty rate for the nation rose from 12.5 percent in 2003 to 12.7 percent in 2004. The exact increase was some 37 million people. However, the good news is the poverty rate for children remained stable and unchanged. According to a US Census press release the Office of Management and Budget stated that “the average poverty threshold for a family of four in 2004 was an income of $19,307; for a family of three, $15,067; for a family of two, $12,334; and for unrelated individuals, $9,645.” (2004 Press Release, 2004)
At this point schools in the US are ill-equipped and ill-prepared for the influx of poverty stricken children entering the system. The teachers lack the proper training to deal with a more diversified classroom as well as the means by which to implement appropriate curriculum. One of the key needs is support from both local and national government, and their local school board. Likewise, teachers need to become more aware of the need to implement new types of lessons that cater to all students and allow them building blocks to use in the future. As stated earlier, children who live in impoverish homes lack the kind of experience to draw upon for future lessons, as well as the opportunities to use the knowledge that they have acquired. It then becomes the schools duty to provide these children with these kinds of opportunities by implementing a more hands on, “learn by doing” sort of approach. In this way children can gain something of a jumping point by which to begin their base of learning. (The Effects of Poverty on Teaching and Learning, 2005).
Additionally schools should begin to create activities that will create comradery and harmony among the students to increase understanding and acceptance of all types of diverse backgrounds. In this way, it can ease the tension between classmates, as well as give children from impoverish homes the chance to develop in a more social and desirable manner. This can aid in subduing the higher rate of emotional and behavioral problems in these youths. With more people to trust and talk to these children will not only have an outlet, but also a model for what type of person they can be. It is positive reinforcement in the best way, to give them the kind of support they need.
In conclusion, schools should begin to prepare for the rising rate of poverty. Although the issue of poverty is being addressed so as to alleviate the problem entirely, the solution doesn’t look like it will be here in the near future. For schools this means creating a more diverse environment to aid in the learning process of those who are not so fortunate. It is already clear that poverty creates huge problems in those affected by it, that students who come from homes below the poverty line meet more emotional, behavioral, and educational problems than their more fortunate counterparts. Since this problem is now so evident, with proof behind it, it is important that one take steps to create a better solution now. Poverty doesn’t have to cause students to learn less or have fewer opportunities. To be sure it is a set back for that student, but schools need to level the playing field and create a place where everyone can have equal opportunities.
1. Brooks-Gunn, Duncan, J. G. (1997). The effects of poverty on children. The Future of Children and Poverty, 7(2), 55-71. 2. IPUMS. (n.d.). Retrieved Nov. 15, 2005, from Poverty Web site: http://www.ipums.umn.edu/usa/pincome/povertya.html. 3. Slavin, R. (2003). Educational psychology : theory and practice. 7th ed. : Pearson Education, Inc.. 4. The effects of poverty on teaching and learning. (2005). Retrieved Nov. 15, 2005, from Teach-nology Web site: http://www.teach-nology.com/tutorials/teaching/poverty/print.htm. 5. US Census Bureau, (2004). 2004 press release. Retrieved Nov. 15, 2005, from US Census Bureau Web site: www.census.gov/press-release/www/release/archives/income_wealth/005647.html.