Each fall, typically in September, the U.S. Census Bureau issues a public report on the level of poverty in the previous year and trends in the level and composition of the poor over time. For 2016, a family of four with two minor children earning an annual income below $24,036 is considered poor.
With each passing generation the challenge schools have to overcome the effects of poverty on learning is greater. The rate of people who are born in poverty and stay in poverty continues to grow with each generation. If you are born in poverty, you will likely stay in poverty for your entire life. Far too many people associate poverty with race, they see poverty as significantly found in certain racial communities—African American and Latino. Yet when AdvancED goes into a state like New Hampshire or North Dakota, poverty there is not about race; poverty is about poverty.
They have the same fundamental challenges we see everywhere else in this country in both rural and urban areas. It’s not about culture it’s about poverty. It is an economic problem not a racial one. Filtering poverty discussions through a racial lens allows for dismissal and a quiet resignation to the notion that nothing can be done or that it impacts others rather than every community in America.
“No single demographic group in the United States ‘owns’ poverty.”
–Dr. Ruby K. Payne, founder aha! Process
In this issue we explore “The Impact of Poverty on Education.” We’re adding something a little different by including an original video series. AdvancED is a catalyst for conversation and change. It is our hope that “Education Advantage,” a three part video series on poverty and education, will spark conversation and action in education reform. Dr. Ruby K. Payne, who wrote The Politics of Poverty: Why We Still Haven’t Solved the Issue also has written about how she sometimes is called upon to defend her conscious decision to focus very little on race when she talks about poverty—her workshop participants who argue that poverty is essentially a “minority” issue are often surprised to learn there are more white children (9,602,000 or nearly 62% of the 15,540,000 total) in poverty in the U.S. than any other racial group. While the United States has one of the highest rates of child poverty in the industrialized world, all U.S. minority groups except Asian Americans have a higher percentage of children in poverty than whites.
Dr. Ebbie Pearsons in The Great Escape: Poverty‘s Impact on Education in America acknowledges the disparities in socioeconomics and the impact of poverty on children, families and education. He takes issue however with the fact that often the sociologists, educators, researchers and reformers are most often outsiders without real connection to or understanding of impoverished communities. The solutions offered are rarely inclusive of the communities impacted and reforms tend to happen to impoverished communities instead of with these communities. Holly King in Responding to Marginalization of Students of Color in K-12 Education offers research-based recommendations to support changes in practice within classrooms and schools such as examining biases, exploring race-based assumptions and discourse in schools, and encouraging administrators to adopt social justice leadership practices that can lead to the kinds of societal and structural changes needed to respond with flexibility to the needs of marginalized students of color. We hear a lot about the need for more resources but Dr. Froswa Booker-Drew understands The Role of Social Capital to Create Change. As educators, she writes, it’s important for us to provide students with an understanding of how to build relationships, leverage outside networks beyond the familial that can help them gain access to role models, resources and opportunities, for better educational and life outcomes. In our final article of this edition, State Policies to Overcome the Achievement Gap and Poverty, Jeremy Anderson provides us with some examples of states that are successfully addressing the achievement gap through partnerships and innovative small grant programs such as child care grants and emergency just-in-time grants to post-secondary students who encounter unexpected hardships that can help students remain enrolled and complete their term.
We have to stop associating poverty solely with race, and understand that poverty is a condition in this country that is eroding our infrastructure. More than 45 million people live in poverty in the United States—that’s 14.5 percent of all Americans. Struggling schools are highly populated with students living in poverty. It is not simply an issue of addressing struggling schools; it is about how do we now effectively educate kids who live in poverty? That is the ultimate issue that we have to address. It is an economic and education issue critical to every community in America regardless of race.
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