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Students living in high poverty environments have a harder time achieving in school compared to students in non-high poverty.One of the greatest challenges facing education is the achievement gap between students living in high poverty and non-high poverty. Closing this gap is not as simple as it may seem, because in all reality an educational gap is not the only gap that exist. A financial gap amongst impoverished and non-impoverished students exists as well. Performance and success rate in academia between these two classes of students show the same recurring conclusion. Academically, Impoverish students fall behind their non-impoverished counterparts.
In this great society, the so-called “Land of Opportunity”…America! It's amazing how many children are not granted the education they deserve. Education is largely funded by property taxes, which means those areas and families who spend more on property have better schools in their area (Young, 2009). One of the biggest problems affecting children and the educational achievement gap is poverty. According to the Census in 2009, 43.6 million people were in poverty this is a depressing increase from 39.8 million in 2008. Out of these alarming numbers 15.5 million children under age 18 are in poverty (Census, 2009). Poverty measures put a specific dollar amount on families varying in size. For example for a family of four living in poverty works off an income of $22,050, $18,310 for a family of three, and $14,570 for a family of two(national center for children in poverty, 2010). Judging by these poverty measures, the opportunities for children living in these situation seems slim to none. Focusing on school, while living in poverty is an experience many people cannot fathom.
Students living in high poverty environments are mostly to dropout, do poor on test, and have a harder time grasping information (Murnane, 2007). Sadly, the bottom line is those who need the most, get the least. Comparing students from high-poverty environments and non-high poverty environments shows a disheartening story of disparities. Students in high poverty environments lack many of the essentials needed to help them become healthy prepared students. Three factors focused on when analyzing these two classes of students are financial stability, family lifestyles, and neighborhood environments. These key factors are extremely different from students living in high-poverty environment compared to student living in non-high poverty environments. These dissimilarities highly impact student academic success and are one way to explain why these two classes of students perform differently.
The different school experiences that high-poverty students have compared to non-poverty students create problems not only in the school setting, but long after they reach adulthood. Schools should be a place where children, regardless of their socioeconomic status, find support and encouragement as they grow, learn and gain confidence in their abilities (Joseph, 2004). Unfortunately, the experience of poverty is a continuing effect that goes in a vicious circle. Many poor children come from homes where their parents or live-in adults had similar experiences in schools. When they dropped out and now, if they can find work, are trapped in low-paying jobs that will not allow them to give the type of educational resources and experiences that could help their children attain the type of education needed to break the cycle (Joseph, 2004).
Public school is supposed to be a stepping stone for students; it's supposed to transform society into a better place for all. In reality public schools do the opposite, public schools have become a hierarchy where students gain the resources and achieve based on class. Those who are wealthy receive all the privileges and these privileges are passed down from one generation to the next (Young, 2009). In a quote by Alfred Joseph, he states how privileges families are able to provide better education for their students but it causes inequality since student in poverty cannot afford the same privileges.
“At the local level, privileged parents often use their superior resources to give their children more educational resources (family inequality), sending them to schools with more resources and richer schoolmates (school inequality and schoolmate inequality). Within a school, staff can give richer students more resources, assign them to higher ability classes (tracking), or support their status effects in steep status hierarchies” (Joseph, 2004).
II. High Poverty Environment Compared to Non- Poverty Environments: Financial Stability
High-poverty families are more likely to lack medical insurance or have high co-payments, which means less medical care, and more childhood illness and absenteeism, which of course negatively impacts school achievement. School is not helping: Poor schools are more likely to have no school nurse or have a high ratio of nurses to students (Berliner, 2009). Children of poverty are more likely to live in high-pollution areas, with more exposure to mercury, lead, PCB's (polychlorinated biphenyls) and smog, all of which influence health and learning, and often impact behavior as well (Berliner, 2009, p. 23; Martin, 2004). Children of poverty have very little access to books at home and in their communities, with less access to good public libraries and bookstores (Neuman and Celano, 2001). Once again, school is not helping: Children of poverty attend schools with poorly supported classroom libraries and school libraries (Smith, Constantino, and Krashen, 1996; De Loreto and Tse, 1999; Duke, 2000; Neuman and Celano, 2001). Studies confirm that increased access to books is related to increased reading achievement (Lance, 1994; McQuillan, 1997; Krashen, 2004; Lindsay, 2010), which makes sense in view of findings that show that self-selected reading is a powerful predictor of reading achievement (McQuillan, 1998; Krashen, 2004). Poverty is clearly the most serious problem. In fact, it may be the only serious problem in American education. What this brief review suggests is that when the problem of poverty is solved, when all children have the advantages that right now only middle-class children have, the “achievement gap” between children from high and low-income families will be closed.
III. High Poverty Environment Compared to Non- Poverty Environments: Family Lifestyle
Often, the affluent parent will have access to educational resources for his/her child. Also, the parent in from this sector of society will most likely educate his/her child directly or indirectly. It is more likely that these parents will have higher regards for education, set educational goals for the child and/or be models. Also, it is more likely a child with doctors as parents will end up pursuing higher education - and possibly medical school than the child whose parents' education stopped at a high school diploma. This is not to say that a child's education
IV. High Poverty Environment Compared to Non- Poverty Environments: Neighborhood Environment
Living in high-poverty neighborhoods, with their high unemployment rates, rampant crime, and struggling schools and other institutions, can have serious, negative consequences for the well-being and life chances of adults and children. Distressed inner city public housing developments are some of the worst, most destructive environments for families. Many of these communities are economically isolated and racially segregated, are overrun with gangs and drug trafficking, and offer little opportunity for residents ( Briggs, Comey & Weismann, 2008).
When neighborhood poverty rates exceed 30 percent, the viability of community businesses and social institutions is undermined, jobs disappear, young people see few opportunities for success, and disorder, crime, and violence worsen. A substantial body of social science research indicates that living in these high-poverty communities hurts the long-term life chances of families and children (Turner, 2009). Were it not for racial and ethnic segregation, the 0.8 percentage point increase in poverty over the past year would not produce such serious spill-over effects. White families that are poor—or close to the poverty line—are widely dispersed geographically, mostly living in neighborhoods with low poverty rates. Thus, when poverty rises among whites, their neighborhoods are barely affected.
It is racial and ethnic segregation that fuels the geographic concentration of poverty and the severe distress of high-poverty neighborhoods. As Massey and Denton demonstrated in American Apartheid (1993), the clustering of minorities (among whom the incidence of poverty is markedly higher than for whites) in a limited selection of neighborhoods yields much higher poverty rates than in white neighborhoods. Thus, the 1.6 percentage point increase in poverty among Latinos puts their neighborhoods at serious risk of being pushed into the danger zone of concentrated poverty. In recent years, overall levels of black-white segregation have been declining, albeit slowly, while segregation of Latinos has climbed. Although a growing share of U.S. neighborhoods are racially and ethnically diverse, low-income African Americans and Latinos in particular remain highly clustered in predominantly minority neighborhoods (Turner, 2009).
Students from affluent neighborhood will most likely have more educational support and resources to help them through school. Often, these neighborhoods have more tutoring companies, afterschool activities, and education stores than the working class or poor neighborhoods. Also, an affluent neighborhood will be filled with highly educated people. In many respects, students in these neighborhoods are expected to continue their education at college or university level. In struggling, impoverished neighborhoods, education may be seen more as a way to get a job after high school. In some cases, the idea of getting an education is secondary. Economically surviving is more important (Taylor, 2010).
V. High Poverty Students compared to Non-High Poverty Students: Academic Achievement
Urban poverty schools are different in terms of their characteristics, staffing, and students in relation to affluent schools. The characteristic make-up of urban poverty schools are: 14 percent of students attending high-poverty elementary schools were White, 34 percent were Black, 46 percent were Hispanic, 4 percent were Asian/Pacific Islander, and 2 percent were American Indian/Alaska Native
Students of similar abilities enter school with differences in readiness to benefit from instruction primarily based on their “social class backgrounds” (Rothstein, 2004). It has been shown that children of parents with higher educational levels have been read to more frequently, have more books in the home, have already learned how to use computers, and have had differing patterns of interactive reading and conversation than those children from families with less education and fewer resources (Bianchi & Robinson, 1997; Chatterji,006; West, Denton & Germino-Hausken, 2000). The skills gained from early exposure and continued enrichment are transferable to a readiness for academic instruction and provide modeling for Poverty and High Achievement 305 achievement orientation. Hodgkinson (2003) reported that from birth to age 5, forces have already been put in place that encourage some children to “shine” and fulfill their potential in school and life while other forces stunt the growth and development of children who have just as much potential. The cost to the nation in terms of talent unfulfilled and lives of promise wasted is enormous. (p. 1) Furthermore, students from lower income families may have limited access to programs outside of school that provide lessons and enrichment opportunities that add to student competence in a learning environment, confidence in ability to learn new things, social interaction skills, and background information that may transfer to an academic setting. Involvement in school-related activities in general is associated with higher achievement (Eccles, Barber, Stone, & Hunt, 2003; Everson & Millsap, 2004; Schreiber, 2002). However, these opportunities frequently have registration and participation fees that make them inaccessible to students from low-income families. Lamont and Small (2006) concluded, “Class differences are greater than differences within racial groups; for instance, the black and white middle class parents resemble each other in the way they manage their children's leisure time” (p. 14). Middle and upper class parents, regardless of race or ethnicity, pass along cumulatively important advantages to their children through availability of organized leisure activities, summer programs, educational enrichment, family vacations, and connection to other families with similar supports (Lareau, 2002, 2003). In other words, opportunities to learn in group settings and exposure to information-rich environments have been found to be less available to children in poverty, placing them at a disadvantage relative to more affluent classmates when they enter the school environment. Opportunities for high-ability students in particular may be differentially available according to structures within the public schools that allow greater resources to be available to the dominant culture (Cross & Cross, 2005; Kozol, 1991). Cultural factors operate in conjunction with access and social capital, not independent of 306 Journal for the Education of the Gifted them. Poverty may hinder achievement in general and high achievement in particular. The Myth of Value Differences Among Cultures Is there a “culture of poverty”? Cultural deficit models locate responsibility for achievement gaps between groups within individuals (i.e, “blame the victim”). Such models contend that the poor and ethnic minorities subscribe to values that are not the same as those of the middle or upper classes. The transmission of these values from parent to child is seen as perpetuating low educational and occupational attainment (Bullock, 2006). According to Ford and her colleagues (Ford, 2006; Ford, Harris, Tyson, & Trotman, 2002), this type of deficit thinking is the principal barrier to inclusion of African American students in programs for the gifted and talented. However, when looking at the concept of “values” of different groups, several researchers have found that lower income students aspire to college just as do higher income students. Kozol (1991) would argue that all parents want their children to succeed. Lamont and Small (2006) have called for more research on how different cultural processes might influence behavior and beliefs. Fordham and Ogbu (1986) pointed out that some group identity processes might interfere with achievement behaviors. But, lower college attending and graduating patterns may not be as much a difference in values, as they are a reflection of fewer avenues for attending, fewer additional tangential opportunities, and fewer supports for sustained achievement. Underrepresentation of Children From Poverty in Rigorous Courses and Gifted Programs Programs for gifted and talented or high-ability students may not begin until the third or fourth grade and are frequently reliant upon standardized test scores for access. Students who had the early advantages outlined previously are in a position to perform better on standardized measures. It is well documented that students from racial minorities are traditionally underrepresented in these programs (Ford, 2005). What is not clear, however, is the number of students in these programs that come from a background of poverty. Poverty and High Achievement 307 Donovan and Cross (2002) found that there is a national overrepresentation of minorities in special education and underrepresentation of those students in gifted education. They reported that there were no assurances that bright students would have been exposed to effective instruction or classroom management in order to be included in the screening for gifted services. Hodgkinson (2006) stated that the lowest income group produces 9% of the students identified as being gifted and talented, whereas the highest income group produced 47% of those identified. In addition, programs for gifted students include 77% White students, 7% Black, 9% Hispanic, 7% Asian, and 1% Native American (U.S. Department of Education, 2000). These statistics show that Black and Hispanic students are underrepresented according to the population and Asian Americans are overrepresented. Ford (2006) points out that teachers often fail to identify children of certain cultural and economic groups for increased academic rigor. Other reasons for underidentification include an overemphasis on test scores for participation, the use of weighted matrices, and attendance and behavioral concerns that negatively impact the participation of underrepresented groups. Protocols for identifying who should be included in advanced opportunities must take into consideration providing advanced opportunities with support to any student who exhibits advanced potential. Pat O'Connell Ross (2006) recommended that we implement instructional strategies that we already know are effective and more thoroughly research what works for students from underrepresented populations
Poverty can widen the achievement gap through disadvantaged students' fewer learning opportunities and weaker discipline. Meanwhile, six inequality mechanisms reduce both privileged and disadvantaged students' learning. First, richer parents benefit less than poorer parents from public resources and advocate less public education spending. Second, teachers and students in less equal societies view one another as less similar, feel less solidarity, and share fewer educational resources. Third, less solidarity reduces trust and fosters corruption, which siphons off educational resources. Fourth, less equal countries have higher crime rates, more conflict, and weaker student discipline. Fifth, steep status hierarchies distort perceptions of one another's competencies and needs. Lastly, the effects of diminishing marginal returns are larger in less equal countries.
Clifford Adelman (1996, 2006) has shown that the greatest predictor of postsecondary success is the satisfactory completion of mathematics courses beyond Algebra II and rigorous courses such as Advanced Placement during high school. Specifically, successful completion of a course in trigonometry or precalculus more than doubled the odds that a student with that level of mathematical preparation who entered college would eventually graduate. SES was important in the study, but not nearly as influential as rigorous academic preparation. Students from the lowest quintiles of family income who had the best academic preparation earned bachelor's degrees at a higher rate than most students from the highest quintile without a rigorous background. We do know, however, that to gain the rigorous academic preparation needed for success, a student must have the opportunity and background preparation to do well, which is often absent in low-income households. In regard to the factor of opportunity, schools with a higher minority and low-income student population are less likely to offer Poverty and High Achievement 303 rigorous curricula and Advanced Placement courses (Martin, Karabel, & Vasquez, 2005). They also are less likely to have experienced and qualified teachers (Kozol, 1991). Students from low-income, Black, Hispanic, or Native American groups are under-identified and underrepresented in rigorous coursework of any kind. High-achieving Latino students under-enroll in selective programs for which they are qualified (Fry, 2004). Latino students were almost three times as likely to come from a low-income home as high-achieving White students (Gandara, 2005). Again, however, the point must be reiterated that low income and other classifications are often aggregated in statistical reporting, making it difficult to focus on poverty alone. Few children from high-poverty schools get the education needed in their early years that would prepare them for the advanced curriculum they will need for college preparation (Kozol, 1991; Newberg, 2006). Abbott and Joireman (2001) used multiple regression analysis to study group differences in school achievement according to ethnic population as well as income levels of student families: “Across a variety of grades and tests, our results support the conclusion that low income explains a much larger percentage of the variance in academic achievement than ethnicity” (p. 13). Not surprisingly, they also found non-White families to be overrepresented among those of low income, but while ethnicity was also related to achievement, the relationship was more indirect. Low-income schools had more in common with each other, regardless of ethnic breakdown, than they did with high-income schools. However, Abbott and Joireman also reported that a sizeable percentage of variance in achievement scores could not be accounted for by ethnicity and income. Lee and Burkham (2002) concurred with the general findings by reporting that higher performing students tend to come from higher income and more highly educated families. Another important factor was the negative impact on academic performance of the concentration of one-parent families (Caldas & Bankston, 1999). Students, regardless of family structure, tended to do worse in schools that contained large numbers of one-parent families. To summarize, low-income students are significantly less likely to enter college than students from high-income backgrounds and significantly less likely to graduate if they do enter (College Board, 2005).
Low-income students of academic promise offer the nation's best hope for reversing the trend of an increasing number of families living in poverty. But, in order to do so, the following recommendations must be considered: 1. More complete information is needed about individual students exhibiting high achievement so that it can be determined whether or not the group of high performers includes students from poverty. One way to collect such data would be to assign each student an individual test number so that crucial information for appropriate instruction can follow the student from grade to grade and from school to school. This is especially important given the high degree of mobility of lowincome families. Poverty and High Achievement 313 2. Disaggregated data on standardized achievement measures could be studied to compare schools with a greater success rate with students from poverty with other schools with similar demographics that are not succeeding and to follow-up with qualitative studies of academically successful high achievers living in poverty. 3. The sociocultural context in schools can be studied to determine context that can positively influence motivation or the“will to succeed.” 4. Students of promise from all groups and income levels and locales as early as kindergarten should be identified and provided with the enriched and accelerated instruction for which they are ready. 5. Student programs for those with advanced academic skills may not serve well those who have potential for high performance but who have not had previous opportunity to develop those skills. Adjustment will need to be made to include students with a less enriched academic background. 6Professional development for all educators is needed for them to become culturally competent, to understand the tremendous limitations of living in poverty, to recognize high ability in students not from the middle class, and to gain a commitment to nurture every child. 7. Low-income learners of academic promise need long-term, consistent support from caring, committed persons to retain them in the curriculum that will provide the skills for their long-term success ( Beilke & Burney, 2008)