Improving the Education of Children Living in Poverty

Harvard Graduate School of Education, USA.
The Future of Children (Impact Factor: 1.98). 02/2007; 17(2):161-82. DOI: 10.1353/foc.2007.0019
Source: PubMed


Richard Murnane observes that the American ideal of equality of educational opportunity has for Years been more the rhetoric than the reality of the nation's political life. Children living in poverty. he notes, tend to be concentrated in low-performing schools staffed by ill-equipped teachers. They are likely to leave school without the skills needed to earn a decent living in a rapidly changing economy. Murnane describes three initiatives that the federal government could take to improve the education of these children and increase their chances of escaping poverty. All would strengthen the standards-based reforms at the heart of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB) by bracing the three legs on which the reforms rest: accoutability incentives, and capacity. Congress, says Murnane, should improve accountability by amending NCLB to make performance goals more attainable. The goals should emphasize growth in children's skills rather than whether children meet specific test score targets. Congress should also amend NCLB to develop meaningful goals for high school graduation rates. Congress should strengthen states' incentives to improve the education of low-income students. It should also encourage states to develop effective voluntary school choice programs to enable students who attend failing public schools to move to more successful schools in other districts. Finally, Congress should use competitive matching grants to build the capacity of schools to educate low-income children and the capacity of state departments of education to boost the performance of failing schools and districts. The grants would help develop effective programs to improve teaching and to serve students who do not fare well in conventional high school programs. Murnane estimates the annual cost of these three initiatives to be approximately $2.5 billion.

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    • "Examining poverty with other coexisting conditions suggests that poverty has interrelated factors that contribute to its cyclical development, evolvement, and/or sustainment. Other factors associated with living in poverty include limited access to medical care, inadequate food and housing, isolation (Lustig & Strauser, 2007), unemployment (U.S. Census Bureau, 2010), dependence on external support (Coleman-Jenson, Nord, Andrews, & Carlson, 2011), and poor educational opportunities (Murnane, 2007). Each of these factors present substantial obstacles to developing an independent and self-sustaining life, but combined, they overwhelmingly contribute to the brutal cycle of poverty in which many find themselves. "
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    • "Every school day, more than 7,200 students exit American public high schools without a diploma; the majority of dropouts are impoverished minorities who are likely to attend large, urban schools (Swanson, 2010). Children living in poverty tend to be concentrated in lowperforming schools staffed by underprepared teachers (Murnane, 2007). It is estimated that more than a quarter of all students and over forty percent of Hispanic and African American students do not graduate from high school on time; the majority of students that fail to graduate with their peers are likely to dropout (Legters and Balfanz, 2010). "
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