A child growing up in poverty encounters individual, family and environmental risks that can undermine not only the ability to learn, but also the healthy development of character, motivation and persistence. These conditions all too frequently lead to behavioral problems and academic failure.
High-poverty schools experience the overwhelming needs of the children they serve, and the stresses of the community around them. High rates of joblessness, violence, racial tension, homelessness, and other factors are reflected in higher-than-average rates of untreated physical or mental illness, physical abuse and other problems for the students.
Even though these conditions are widespread, little in the experience of most teachers or school leaders has prepared them to address the many challenges these children encounter toward academic achievement.
Taken together, the obstacles the students must confront and the lack of preparedness on the part of schools and teachers often results in a negative school culture with low expectations for students. The following national statistics provide a dramatic snapshot of the challenge:
- The average student eligible for free/reduced lunch is two years of learning behind grade level.
- The dropout rate of students living in low-income families is more than four times the rate of students from high-income families.
- Only nine percent of freshmen in the nation’s 120 Tier I colleges are from the bottom half of the country’s income distribution.
These numbers point to the profound inadequacies of schools that serve poor kids and the failure of these schools to prepare students for post-secondary education and success. Turnaround for Children provides a systemic framework that enables school leaders and faculty to address the pervasive and sometimes devastating effects of poverty on children’s learning.