What's the Best Way to Address Students Living in Poverty?

By: Peter Segall


The links between poverty and educational achievement are undeniable. The question, then, is what to do about it? Schools across the country often offer strategies that try to cope with the myriad of programs caused by children living in poverty.

But, is school the right place to do that? Programs that provide school meals, particularly breakfast, have shown to increase educational performance while decreasing discipline rates.

Yet when schools become the focal point for reducing the effects of society’s socio-economic problems, they end up spending less time on education. While schools can do a lot to try to staunch the bleeding caused by poverty, they certainly can’t close the wounds.

The home life of children is just as important to their education as their school. Children from impoverished families show more signs of stress, and in some cases even trauma. These predictable outcomes manifest themselves in a child’s overall behavior and take a toll on their ability to learn.

Some have argued that while some school programs have shown to be effective in boosting educational outcomes, the real solution to closing the achievement gap comes by providing more money and resources for their families.

But, welfare programs are controversial and are thus susceptible to the vicissitudes of politics. Some argue that it is not the government’s place to provide food, shelter, and medicine for every person in poverty. Benefits can be reduced or cut entirely every time there is an election, leaving families that depend on them in the lurch.

Tell us what you think. Are schools the best place for anti-poverty programs? Should governments, state, local, or federal, even be concerned with poverty reduction?

Let us know at mpc@mediapolicycenter.org



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