Student poverty negatively affects the motivation and desire to learn, as evidenced by poor verbal and thinking skills. Children in impoverished families lack access to a computer and high-speed Internet, as well as other materials that aid students outside of school. Parents often have to work long hours, or even hold several jobs, in order to provide for their children. It’s no wonder that these children have limited vocabulary and poor self-esteem.
As a result, it’s often hard to get a sense of how much student poverty affects learning. For example, in the United States, low-income students comprise approximately 17% of all students. But while this number may seem large, it actually represents only a small percentage of the entire population. For a full picture of the effect of student poverty on their desire to learn, it’s important to examine the demographics of low-income students in a school district.
School districts in Georgia report that student poverty is one of the top three most significant problems facing schools. According to the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute, poverty is the most significant problem out of school, and this statistic reinforces findings from the Georgia Department of Education’s 2016 school grade analysis. As a result, high-poverty schools are more likely to meet benchmarks for academic performance than those with low-poverty populations.
In 2015, nearly twenty percent of children lived in poverty. One in five children lived in a household with an income below $24,339 per year. In addition, 51 percent of students in pre-K through 12th grades live in low-income households. These statistics raise important questions, including “Can poverty affect the desire to learn?”
Studies show that the effects of poverty begin very early. Students from poor households showed structural differences in brain areas associated with school readiness. The impact of deep poverty was greater in students from the poorest families. The difference was 20% in test scores. These structural differences may be the result of maturational lags in the frontal and temporal lobes. However, the impact of poverty on student learning was not a coincidence.
Georgia is grappling with an acute skills shortage, and improving learning outcomes for low-income students is a pressing need. The state needs more workers with postsecondary education. At the same time, the number of low-income students in Georgia’s public schools is increasing. Data from the federal free and reduced lunch program show that the proportion of economically disadvantaged students in public schools has more than doubled from 2002 to today.
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