The effects of poverty on academic achievement
Misty Lacour1 and Laura D. Tissington2*
Southern Arkansas University, Magnolia, Arkansas, USA. th University of West Florida, 1732 N. 13 Avenue Pensacola, Florida 32503, USA. Accepted 12 May, 2011
Poverty, which forms a specific culture and way of life, is a growing issue in the United States. The number of Americans living in poverty is continually increasing. Poverty indicates the extent to which an individual does without resources. Resources can include financial, emotional, mental, spiritual, and physical resources as well as support systems, relationships, role models, and knowledge of hidden rules. Poverty directly affects academic achievement due to the lack of resources available for student success. Low achievement is closely correlated with lack of resources, and numerous studies have documented the correlation between low socioeconomic status and low achievement. Several strategies exist to assist teachers in closing the poverty achievement gap for students. Key words: Poverty, family income, achievement gap, academic gap. INTRODUCTION In the United States (US), the gaps in achievement among poor and advantaged students are substantial (Rowan et al., 2004). Through multiple studies, The U.S. Department of Education (2001: 8) has indicated results that “clearly demonstrated that student and school poverty adversely affected student achievement”. The U.S. Department of Education (2001) found the following key findings regarding the effects of poverty on student achievement in a study conducted on third through fifth The grade students from 71 high-poverty schools: students scored below norms in all years and grades tested; students who lived in poverty scored significantly worse than other students; schools with the highest percentages of poor students scored significantly worse initially, but closed the gap slightly as time progressed. Numerous individual studies have found similar results. In his fiscal 2010 budget proposal, President Barack Obama called for neighborhoods modeled after the Harlem Children’s Zone to improve the lives of children living in poverty (Aarons, 2009). ACHIEVEMENT OF LOW-INCOME STUDENTS A study conducted by Sum and Fogg (1991) found that th poor students are ranked in the 19 percentile on assessments while students from a mid-upper income th family are ranked in the 66 percentile on assessments. In data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study (ECLS) measuring kindergarten students achievement on the ECLS reading achievement assessment, low-income th students scored at about the 30 percentile, middleth income students scored at about the 45 percentile, and th upper-income students scores at about the 70 percentile (Rowan et al., 2004). Students from low income families consistently, regardless of ethnicity or race, score well below average (Bergeson, 2006). For example, in one study, 43.5% of low-income students did not successfully meet any of the required subject area assessments while only 13.2% of low-income students met all of the required subject area assessments (Bergeson, 2006). Similar studies have found comparable results (Bergeson, 2006). Poverty effects on the child increase with the duration of poverty (Table 3). “Children who lived in persistently poor families scored 6 to 9 points lower on the various assessments than children who were never poor” (Smith et al., 1997: 164). The extent of poverty has a significant *Corresponding author. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Tel: (850) 438-9940.
Lacour and Tissington
Table 1. Poor children and adults in the United States, 1959 to 1989. Year 1959 1969 1979 1989
Children ( 17 years) 27.3 14.0 16.4 19.6