- A growing body of research supports the idea that certain anti-poverty programs can help boost student test scores and improve the likelihood that a student will finish high school and enter college. However, state and federal lawmakers and education policymakers don’t always see the connection between anti-poverty initiatives and education, Chalkbeat reports.
- Chalkbeat has compiled a list of more than 20 studies published in the past 10 years that examine the impact of specific anti-poverty programs and tax breaks on academic outcomes for students, and most indicate that increasing a family's income and improving benefits has a positive effect.
- While students tend to benefit from tax credits and other programs that increase income to impoverished families, heath insurance or Medicaid programs, and food stamps; housing programs have less effect, and in the case of public housing, sometimes has a negative effect on test scores.
Most administrators and school leaders are well aware of the effect of poverty on student outcomes as they face these situations every day. A recent survey of elementary principals showed that this issue is a top concern. Poverty can affect a child’s health, growth, brain development, vocabulary, and exposure to educational opportunities outside of the classroom. Ultimately, this impact affects student behavior in school, test scores, attendance, and graduation rates. Parents in poverty also tend to be less educated, which also is a factor in student achievement.
According to a paper published in 2016 by Milton Hershey Schools, more than 16 million children in the U.S., roughly one-fourth, lived below the federal poverty level, which at that time was $23,500 a year. The paper recommends a whole-child approach to serving students as way to help break the cycle of poverty. Some schools are also implementing and expanding the community school model as a way to address the needs of the whole child, a model that requires strong support from district leaders.
Schools may be able to make small strides toward addressing the impact of poverty, but the answers largely lie in making connections with lawmakers, community organizations, and philanthropists to help them see the impact poverty has on education and to work together for broader solutions. Giving students a quality education and increasing their opportunities after graduation can help break the cycle of poverty for their families.