ASCD Report Examines Connection Between Poverty and Education
Alexandria, Va.—ASCD, a global community dedicated to excellence in learning, teaching, and leading, has released a new report on poverty and education. The report summarizes the issues, discussions, and findings from the association's spring 2015 Whole Child Symposium, which took place in May at the Newseum in Washington, D.C. The panelists, representing various roles across education, discussed the link between poverty and education, how poverty affects schools and classrooms, and the actions educators, policymakers, and community members can take to ensure positive outcomes for our nation’s children.
"If we do not address poverty as it relates to each child's ability to learn, we will surely bear the grave consequences of not dealing with it," said Sean Slade, moderator of the Whole Child Symposium and ASCD director of outreach. "This report highlights key points we must carefully consider and candidly discuss, so we can create an education system where each child has equal worth and potential."
The event focused on two defining moments: the recent A New Majority Research Bulletin from the Southern Education Foundation—which highlights the fact that more than half of public school students now come from low-income households—and the passing of 51 years since President Lyndon B. Johnson launched the War on Poverty. With these two moments as the backdrop, the panel discussions focused both on systems change as well as actions that can take place across the school and in the classroom. The report's highlighted findings include the following:
- Inequitable Funding Mechanisms—The majority of public school systems in the United States receive a proportion of their funding from local property taxes; students’ ability to receive high-quality educations is often predetermined by their zip codes.
- Inflexible Funding Formulas—Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), which provides federal funding to help local school districts meet the needs of disadvantaged students, was designed to alleviate many of the educational concerns associated with low income in our nation’s schools. However, for many educators, it has become an underresourced and inflexible system that inadvertently perpetuates the issues.
- The Power of Relationships—Providing all students, in particular those from low-income households, with a nurturing and supportive classroom environment is an essential part of ensuring their success. It requires minimal financial investment and pays huge dividends.
- The Importance of Cultural Competency—Referring to poverty as a culture implies that it is a part of the students rather than just the reality of their current circumstances. Such a mindset runs counter to the premise that education is the best antidote to poverty. Panelist Kathleen Budge explained that kids living in poverty are not of poverty: “Although that seems like . . . maybe splitting hairs, being in something is different than being of it. And there’s such a bigger, I think a more . . . hopeful message that’s very real when we think about separating kids’ growing identities [from] their living conditions.”
Steve Suitts, panelist and author of A New Majority Research Bulletin, summarized the situation: "We've reached the juncture in our public schools where the education of low-income students is not simply a matter of equity and fairness. It's a matter of our national future, because when one group becomes the majority of our students, they define what that future is going to be in education more than any other group."
To view video archives of the event, read about the panelists, and learn more about ASCD’s spring 2015 Whole Child Symposium, visit www.ascd.org/wcsymposium. For more information on ASCD’s Whole Child approach to education and its mission to promote the overall, long-term development of children, visit www.ascd.org/wholechild.