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Facts | Impact of Poverty on Education| Video Features | Audio Features | Volunteer

"Poverty is a bear. Its impact on students is both obvious and subtle. The effects of food scarcity, housing instability, and insufficient access to medical and dental care are clear. If a student is hungry, without a home, suffering from untreated ailments, or in need of glasses, it is difficult for him or her to focus on schoolwork. Poverty also brings an increased exposure to violence, which further shapes student behavior directly and indirectly in complicated and often counter-productive ways. Another characteristic of poverty is living under constant stress, which research is beginning to show has a wide range of negative cognitive, physical, emotional, and mental health effects. Finally, since in the US a large percentage of students who live in poverty come from single-parent households, there can be a range of sibling,family, and elder-care responsibilities thrust upon them that their more affluent peers do not,in general, experience. These additional familial responsibilities influence students’ success at school." - Dr. Robert Balfanz in 'Overcoming the Poverty Challenge'

This week is Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week. Donate to your local food bank, volunteer, or find local events in your area through the National Coalition for Homelessness HERE. You can also learn more, find events and joing the conversation on Twitter with the #HandHWeek hashtag.
Facts About Poverty:
  • Poverty in America is defined as making an income of $23,050/year for a family of four.
  • According to the US Census Bureau, more than one in five children in the United States (15.75 million) lived in poverty in 2010.
  • A new report by the Southern Education Foundation finds that low income students now make up the majority of public school students in 17 states - 13 of which are in the south.
  • According to a new report by the National Center for Homeless Education, 1.2 million children in the US are homeless. The total number of homeless children enrolled in preschools and K-12 programs rose 10 percent during the 2011-12 school year and 24 percent since the beginning of the 2009-10 academic year. In all, 41 states saw a rise in homelessness among school-aged children last year. Fifteen states reported a gain of at least 10 percent while another 10 states reported spikes of 20 percent or more. The map below breaks down the changes:
    click for full interactive map from FRONTLINE
  • Children living in poverty are more likely to have difficulty getting to school, resulting in chronic absenteeism.
  • Children living in poverty are more likely to have to work or care for family members, resulting in absenteeism or leaving school altogether.
  • The U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) (2011) reports that the median income of persons ages 18 through 67 who had not completed high school was roughly $25,000 in 2009. At current rates, a significant segment of the population will remain entrenched in poverty while on a global scale the competitiveness of the American labor force will continue to lag behind.
Poverty's Impact on Education - The Research:

Everyone Graduates Center - Overcoming the Poverty Challenge to Enable College and Career Readiness for All
In order to overcome the educational impacts of poverty, schools that serve high concentrations of low income students need to be able to provide direct, evidence-based supports that help students attend school regularly, act in a productive manner, believe they will succeed, overcome external obstacles, complete their coursework, and put forth the effort required to graduate college- and career-ready. Nonprofits, community volunteers, and full-time national service members have a unique roll to play in the implementation of these direct student supports.

Share Our Strength - Ending Childhood Hunger: A Social Impact Analysis

School breakfast can have a potentially dramatic effect on students. On average, students who eat school breakfast have been shown to do better in math and miss less school. That can lead higher graduation rates.

National Center for Homeless Education: Education for Homeless Children and Youths Program (10/2013)

Southern Education Foundation: A New Majority - Low income students in the South and Nation (10/2013)

Further Reading:

PBS NewsHour - From Homeless to Homecoming and Beyond

The Aspen Institute - Two Generations, One Future; Moving Parents and Children Beyond Poverty Together

Las Vegas Sun - When poverty affects children's education, non-profits step in to help

Howard Steven Friedman for Huffington Post - America's Poverty-Education Link

The Washington Post - The new poverty measure is out, and it’s grim
US Department of Ed Blog - Monarch (school for homeless students) Students Soar with Foundation in College and Career Ready Skills

What Does Poverty Mean to Kids?


In Poor Kids, FRONTLINE spent months following six children who are growing up against the backdrop of their families’ struggles against financial ruin. Filmmaker Jezza Neuman traveled to the Quad Cities, a great American crossroads along the border of Iowa and Illinois, to explore the lives of children living in the suburbs of the nation’s heartland. We asked the children what being poor in America really looks like through their eyes.

Watch Poor Kids on PBS. See more from FRONTLINE.

FRONTLINE hosted a conversation at the National Press Club in Washington D.C. on Tuesday, November 13, 2012 to explore what is being done to alleviate child poverty -- and how we can address this urgent national issue. The discussion is available on demand here.

Video Playlist:
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New Mexico PBS | Breakfast After the Bell
New Mexico PBS | Breakfast After the Bell Students in New Mexico start the school day with provided breakfast Read more
Medora Medora follows a down-but-not-out varsity basketball team as its struggles to compete parallel the town’s own fight for survival. Read more
FRONTLINE | Middle School Moment
FRONTLINE | Middle School Moment Is the make-or-break moment for a high school dropout actually in middle... Read more
NPT: Good Food Means Better Students
NPT: Good Food Means Better Students Memphis schools food expert revamps school meals-- and hopes to turn around student performance as a result. Read more
PBS NewsHour - Detroit Dropout Crisis
PBS NewsHour - Detroit Dropout Crisis PBS News Hour - Detroit Tackles Dropout Crisis By Engaging Students, Parents Read more
NewsHour | The Poorest US City
NewsHour | The Poorest US City PBS NewsHour: As Poorest U.S. City, Reading Also Struggling With High Dropout Rate Read more
Communities In Schools
Communities In Schools Communities In Schools surrounds students with a community of support.     Read more
WHRO - Support for Homeless Children
WHRO - Support for Homeless Children WHRO - Homeless Children Receive Academic Support Read more
Audio Playlist:

MarketPlace - Tackling poverty along with reading and arithmetic

MarketPlace - Leading the change at Oyler School

WAMU - Battling Homelessness, Crime on the Path to Graduation

KTOO - For many students, an unsteady home life puts education out of reach

Partner Organizations Working to Alleviate the Effects of Poverty on Students:

Become an American Graduate Champion and make a difference for a student coping with homelessness or poverty. Click connect with any of these partner community organizations and volunteer today.

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