Education and poverty are complexly tangled. Low-income children are predisposed to various obstacles at school and at home, limiting their chances for educational success. At the same time, missed educational opportunities trap children and young adults in the cycle of poverty. To best serve low-income students, we must address their unique needs.
Students from low-income households face the consequences of poverty in every area of their development. Some obstacles children from low-income homes may face include:
- Instability and Distress. A child’s home life significantly impacts his or her academic performance. Instability, abuse, hunger, mental health, language difficulties, addiction, domestic violence, and neglect at home all have negative effects on a child’s cognitive, behavioral, and emotional development. If a child is concerned about his next meal, how is he going to focus on a math test? If she’s concerned for her safety, how is she going to focus on her homework?
- Poor nutrition and health. Poor nutrition, less access to healthcare, and little exercise affect a child’s reasoning, memory, attention, emotional regulation, and impulse control. If their physical needs aren’t being met, students quickly fall behind in the classroom.
- Brain development and cognition. Low-income children often perform below peers from higher socio-economic statuses on standardized tests and academic performance. A disruptive home environment, poor health, and instability can lead to distraction, attention deficits, weak vocabulary, and poor processing skills. These basic cognitive skills are critical, particularly in early childhood development.
In addition to the physical and cognitive consequences of poverty, students often lose motivation and hope for a better future. Without the support, opportunity, and encouragement to dream of something different, students don’t know how to work toward something different.
These and other various setbacks result in high dropout rates for low-income students. Students from low-income families are five times more likely to drop out of school than students from higher-income families. Without a high school diploma, students have a limited earning potential compared to those with a high school or college diploma. One report found median annual income for 25 to 34-year-old adults with a college education was more than twice that of those without high school education. The same report found a 25 percent unemployment rate among 20 to 24-year-old adults without a high school degree. Individuals without a high school diploma are more likely to be incarcerated, become single parents, and use public assistance programs – further perpetuating the cycle of dependency.
One way that Park will eliminate barriers is by addressing gaps of care in the education system. Also by thinking outside the box; ACT access, overcoming food insecurity, transportation, books, and mentorship.