California Department of Education
Taking Center Stage – Act II
Researchers continue to study the effects of poverty on student achievement and find that it is a significant deterrent to success. To ensure the success of disadvantaged students, No Child Left Behind:
. . . holds a school alone responsible if the students—whatever social, economic, physical, or intellectual handicaps they bring to their classrooms—fail to make sufficient progress every year. Yet a growing body of research suggests that while schools can make a difference for individual students, the fabric of children’s lives outside of school can either nurture, or choke, what progress poor children do make academically . . . reforms aimed at education alone are doomed to come up short, unless they are tied to changes in economic and social policies to lessen the gaps children face outside the classroom.1
Factors affecting student achievement that stem from poverty and that, for the most part, are out of the direct control of educational leaders include:
Additionally, socioeconomically disadvantaged students often live in overcrowded housing conditions that are not conducive to having a quiet place to study. Students in middle grades may be called upon to care for younger siblings while parents go to work. Older adolescents may feel pressured to drop out of school and get a job to help support the family. The prevalence of technology and the necessity for the use of computers to complete assignments outside the classroom creates a digital divide between those who can afford the technology and those who cannot.
Holmes International Middle School, Los Angeles Unified School District, is a 2007 Schools to Watch™-Taking Center Stage Model School
There are computers in each classroom at Holmes, where 61 percent of the students live in poverty. In addition, the school provides three roving computer labs that allow students to become proficient in technology. Students use software programs to improve learning in English language arts and mathematics. Students learn to create and manage electronic portfolios and take virtual field trips.
Computer technology is used in all curricular areas to support students in mastering the standards. Students can choose from several technology-based elective classes that teach them to create PowerPoint presentations, learn effective Internet search techniques, create brochures, learn Web design, and increase information-processing skills. In addition, students complete a ten-week unit on computer programming using a robotics program. The learning resource center is equipped with assistive technology tools to assist students with disabilities.
Lemon Grove Middle School, Lemon Grove Elementary School District
Lemon Grove Middle School serves a student population that is over 60 percent socioeconomically disadvantaged. In one year since implementing a program that provides students with e-Pad computers for home and school use, the school’s API jumped 26 points. The e-Pads provide social equity by allowing all students and their families to access textbooks, support materials, teacher Web sites, and grades through the district’s broadband Web portal, thus helping to close the “digital divide.” For more on the program, read a February 2007 article from the San Diego Union Tribune, or view the e-Pad segment on Channel 10 News located below..
Norwalk-La Mirada Unified School District
The district received recognition for having one of California’s best-planned programs for homeless students. A grant from the state’s Education for Homeless Children and Youth program supports the enrollment, attendance, and success of homeless students up to age twenty-one. Lack of access to technology tends to magnify the effects of poverty. According to a 2003 study released by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), 67 percent of white students use the Internet, compared with 44 percent of Hispanics and 47 percent of blacks. Fifty-four percent of white students use the Internet at home, while only 26 percent of Hispanics and 27 percent of blacks do so. The report’s authors suggest that schools can help to reduce the digital divide by providing access to computers and the Internet.3
Moreno Valley Unified, Napa Valley Unified, Rowland Heights Unified, and Santa Ana Unified School Districts
To avoid losses of learning time and state funding over absenteeism due to migrant and immigrant students’ travel abroad to visit relatives, many districts extend winter break to three weeks. The districts make up the difference by adding extra school days at the beginning and end of the school year. According to Don Trigg, associate superintendent of business services at Santa Ana Unified School District, the district (with nearly 59,000 students) lost tens of thousands of dollars a day because of increased absenteeism around the holiday break in the past.4
Children from low-income homes may face an additional "conversation gap." A 2002 study by the Economic Policy Institute found that middle-class parents converse with their children in ways that build confidence, reasoning, and negotiating skills that are useful in school, college, and the workforce. However, some low-income parents tend to give orders to their children, mirroring what they face in their own work world. Additionally, parent–child time in low-income families may be limited due to the longer hours spent working one or two jobs.5
The large number of children living in poverty or in low-income households complicates the drive to close the achievement gap in California. According to the National Center for Children in Poverty (Outside Source) at Columbia University, 19 percent of California’s children live in poverty, and another 24 percent fit the designation as low income. Although this designation does not necessarily mean that low-income children will struggle in school, experience shows that these students come from households where schooling is interrupted by lack of income, frequent moves, and absenteeism due to lack of transportation and other factors related to poverty. Additionally, poor students often miss school to take care of family obligations and experience intermittent parent support (particularly when parents or guardians work several jobs). They also may lack study resources at home such as books, technology, and a quiet room in which to study or sleep. Additional data show that 42 percent of California’s low-income children live with a single parent, and a disproportionate number of children of Hispanic and black families live in low-income homes.6
Edna Hill Middle School, Brentwood Union Elementary School District, a 2007 Schools to Watch™-Taking Center Stage Model School
To help close the digital divide, the computer lab is open to parents mornings and evenings. One of the school’s bilingual secretaries provides computer training to parents as needed.
The 2010 status report by Children Now, California Report Card 2011 (Outside Source) presents a new approach, the Children’s Agenda which identifies the top ten high-priority, high-impact actions California policymakers should take to improve the status of children. The Agenda covers topics that include a comprehensive pre-school to 12th grade education reform and funding package, a coordinated and streamlined delivery of children’s’ services, and implementation of federal health care reform and reduction of childhood obesity rates.
Similar to previous years, the Report Card studies and evaluates the essential elements of children’s welfare. The overall grade point average for this year is C-, primarily due to the drastic cuts in the state budget. Statistics that highlight critical areas include the following:
According to the 2010 data from the National Center for Children in Poverty: Demographics of Poor Children (Outside Source), there are 4,669,483 families in California with 9,250,111 children. Poor children account for 20 percent of those children as defined as families with income below 100 percent of the federal poverty level. Parental education of low-income families demonstrate that 37 percent have less than a high school education, 26 percent have a high school education, and 37 percent have some college or more.
Holmes International Middle School, Los Angeles Unified School District, a 2007 Schools to Watch™-Taking Center Stage Model School
The Holmes student body celebrates cultures from around the world. The school’s international flag court mirrors bulletin boards throughout the school that feature diversity. In addition, the school library includes an array of books representing cultures from around the world.
1 Diana Jean Schemo, It Takes More Than Schools to Close the Achievement Gap (Outside Source), New York Times, August 9, 2006.
2 Anne Nelson, “Overcoming the Income Gap” (Outside Source), Infobrief, No. 47 (Fall 2006).
3 Matthew DeBell and Chris Chapman, Computer and Internet Use by Students in 2003—Statistical Analysis (PDF; Outside Source). Washington, D.C.: National Center for Education Statistics, September 2006, iv.
4 Seema Mehta and Jennifer Delson, “Schools Learn a Lesson, Schedule Longer Holiday Break to Aid Traveling Families,” Los Angeles Times, December 26, 2006.
5 Lawrence Mishel, Jared Bernstein, and Heather Boushey, The State of Working America 2002–03 (Outside Source). Washington, D.C.: Economic Policy Institute, 2002.
6 Julian Palmer, Younghwan Song, and Hsien-Hen Lu , The Changing Face of Child Poverty in California (Outside Source). New York: National Center for Children in Poverty, Columbia University, August 2002.
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California Department of Education
1430 N Street
Sacramento, CA 95814