Income and Education

Recently, several studies have been published concerning the income gap between rich and poor and how it relates to success in education.  I suppose we have the Great Recession and the election season to thank for bringing this issue to the forefront--where it needs to be.  I work in a school where about 70% of the families receive free or reduced lunch--a relatively high measure of poverty, so I see the relationship between income and education on a daily basis.

I once read that standardized test scores are a great way to measure one thing--the size of the houses in a school district.  Though hyperbolic, there is truth in this statement.  The link between income and education is probably stronger than in any time in recent history.  Why is this?  Why is the amount of money your parent(s) make such a determinate of your likely success in school?  One study gives a clue, "affluent children spend 1,300 more hours than low-income children before age 6 in places other than their homes".   This means that children from higher income homes are getting more life experiences.  Think of the implications of this...  more exposure to interesting geography, architecture, art, road trips, air travel, family vacations, museums, libraries, etc. All of these experiences expose kids to life's possibilities--careers, forms of success, literacy opportunities, and the general intriguing things about life.  All of this translates into a deeper and more intrinsic interest in learning and working hard for what you want.

What can we do as teachers to provide a counter balance?  We can't change their past, but we can affect their future.  We can create more intriguing learning experiences in our classroom.  We can build an inspiration to learn and rebuild a positive concept of their future.  We need to expose our kids to the amazing possibilities the world has to offer and cultivate their confidence so they have the courage to work hard for what they want.   Textbooks, worksheets, and standardized test scores will never break down the wall in the picture.  If we can get our kids excited about learning and working toward their future, the test scores will take care of themselves and that wall will crumble.

1 comment:

  1. As a parent I wanted to expose my children to everything I possibly could for all the reasons you mention in your comments. Regardless of income parents can expose kids to Art Museums (ft.wayne's is free on sundays), forests, lakes & rivers & books at the library-again stimulat imagination & curiosity. Maybe a parental shortfall can be a teacher's opportunity to get out of the classroom.
    Great job son!


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