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10 Facts About How Poverty Impacts Education

Education is affected by poverty in nearly every country, including the United States. Despite education reform champions taking measures to increase testing and results-based evaluations, leaders are rarely discussing how the education of students living in low-income housing are affected by poverty.

The Science of Learning Blog has comprised ten facts on how poverty affects education, and it may surprise you! These facts can be applied to countries all over the world.

  1. Disadvantaged Even Before Birth — Besides genetics, drug use, environmental toxins, poor nutrition and the exposure to stress and violence all effect the cognitive capacity of students.
  2. Less Verbal Exposure — Studies show that parents with higher educations and income are more likely to engage children with questions and dialogue that invite creative responses, while parents living in poverty often lack the time and energy for anything beyond simple and goal-oriented commands.
  3. Poor Sense of Agency — Children in poverty often fail to develop the skills to control their own lives and causes them to react to crises that are only magnified by their poor ability to plan ahead or reflect.
  4. Low Executive Function — Children in low-income housing often have insecurities that interfere with their impulse control, emotional regulation, attention management, prioritization of tasks and working memory.
  5. More Demanding Environment — Today’s knowledge-based economy makes it harder to move out of poverty since more competition for unskilled work and minimum wage has not kept up with inflation.
  6. Comparisons Are Misleading — When the data that education reformers often refer is broken down, American children of affluent families do as well as their foreign peers.
  7. It’s Getting Worse — Studies show that low-income students are four and a half times more likely to drop out of high school and those who are academically proficient are far less likely to complete college. Financial stability has become less attainable for college graduates and the gap in SAT scores between wealth and poor students has grown by 42% in the last two decades.
  8. Targeted Intervention — Education reformers should focus on improving school districts in poor neighborhoods with targeted investments designed to counteract the efforts on poverty on educational achievement instead of pushing nationwide testing and higher standards across the board.
  9. Brain Plasticity Works Both Ways — Computer programs like Fast ForWord and Reading Assistant can boost students’ memory, attention, processing and sequencing abilities in math and reading.
  10. Smart Design — Flexible scheduling, simple instructions, more incremental steps, reduced paperwork and minimal penalties for participation can increase engagement and successful completion.
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