Childhood poverty rising, compromising academic preparedness
- Data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study cited in a new study showed that since the Great Recession, more children are living in high-poverty neighborhoods (where 40% or more residents live below the poverty line).
- Children living in some of the highest poverty neighborhoods are close to a year behind their peers, and skills gaps among students from these areas have grown.
- Researchers ultimately concluded that data on children's neighborhoods and socioeconomic backgrounds may provide useful indicator, paritcularly for educators, of whether students and their families need additional support.
Students' backgrounds can have tremendous impact on their academic lives. Those living in high-poverty neighborhoods are, in addition to lacking educational support and resources afforded to more affluent students, often exposed to stressful environments, pollution, poor-quality child care, criminal activity, among other factors. Such situations can add on additional amounts of anxiety onto students' lives, which can seriously take away from their ability to learn and stay focused in school. And, as this study shows, the system is both systemic and cyclical — kids who face such environments are often thrust back into the same state of poverty due to poor outcomes from suspensions, expulsions and ineffective, negative school experiences.
Beyond that, students from high-poverty neighborhoods are also often attending schools in high-poverty areas as well, a reality which only further their state of being behind academically. In fact, a 2014 UCLA survey of 800 secondary teachers in California showed that students in these areas lose about 22 days of instruction, compared to 12 days missed by students at schools with lower poverty levels, because of factors like malfunctioning equipment in schools, teacher absences, poor access to healthcare, and unstable housing and chronic hunger.
With the number of children being exposed to high-poverty neighborhoods increasing, the study highlights the importance of educators taking note of students' background and managing data in order to proactively see which students may need additional support and resources. By observing students' socioeconomic environments, teachers can garner a better picture of how to meet students' needs. Further, states can take steps to make sure that additional high quality educational resources, such as Head Start, are located in the areas where children actually truly need them.
Follow Shalina Chatlani on Twitter