How big of a problem is poverty in education?
Despite enormous investment in education reform, the achievement gap between poor children and their higher-income peers persists, threatening the economic security of our nation’s most vulnerable youth. Poverty and education are inextricably linked.
Linda Darling-Hammond, Professor of Education at Stanford and architect of the School Redesign Network, argues that individual teachers may account for only 7 to 10 percent of overall achievement. Socioeconomic status usually accounts for 50 to 60 percent. Other school and home factors — including challenges related to housing, nutrition, violence and gang-related activity — can account for as much as 10 to 20 percent.
What’s the solution?
Data consistently show that students who attend community schools, and who receive services, supports and enrichments, have improved academic performance as well as increased motivation and learning engagement. Community schools partner with the community to integrate critical resources into the educational experience. This levels the playing field for low-income youth.
What are community schools?
Community schools are neighborhood public schools that holistically meet the needs of students, parents and the community. Using the school as a hub, these facilities provide a wide range of services including academic supports like tutoring, and enrichment activities; medical services like primary, vision and dental treatment; adult education classes; early childhood education; and career and technical education. The services at community schools meet the changing needs of students and community members.
What are the benefits of community schools?
Across the country, community schools have been shown to reduce health-related obstacles that cost student instructional time, and to decrease student mobility rates. When schools serve as community hubs, families can establish roots rather than move around for necessary services.
The schools also help parents support the work of educators by teaching them skills necessary to reinforce the lessons taught at school. Chronic absenteeism is also reduced as greater community involvement allows educators to reduce barriers to student learning and address family needs.
How can you help?
- Attend a school board meeting and discuss how a community schools approach can strengthen your school and your practice.
- Work with your local union leaders to contact potential community partners, public officials, elected leaders, faith-based organizations and others, to get them on board with the community schools strategy. Encourage them to lobby your school district to implement this approach.
- To directly impact poverty and hunger in your community, have your local union, chapter or retiree council host a food drive for the local food pantry.
- Contact the American Federation of Teachers for information about starting a community school in your area.
- Contact the National Education Association for information about Community Schools.
- Take to Twitter! Use the hashtags #fighthunger to spread the word, or check out these Twitter handles for ways you can help:
- Ricebowl lesson plan
After going to link, scroll down to the lesson entitled: Introduction: Students will use their hands, mind, and heart to explore the plight of world hunger. Lesson plan for grades k-4.
- Poverty USA
Focus: Social Awareness Objective: To develop a deeper understanding of the daily challenges faced by those living in poverty, and to learn how to bring attention to the need for lasting solutions to the problems of poverty in the United States.
“Teaching with Poverty in Mind,” by Eric Jensen
“A Mind Shaped by Poverty,” by Regina Rawlinson
“The Food Activist Handbook Big & Small things you can do to help provide fresh food for your community,” by Ali Berlow
- Provides Specific Actions you can take to help end hunger
What is a Community School?