MAY 2015
Visible poverty can become a common justification for students' lack of academic progress. For our students, poverty reaches beyond the financial status of a family and is often relative to the situation or the society in which they live. Poverty is a complex issue. Deficits created by poverty may be financially driven, but may also be attributed to family support, community involvement and emotional stability. In the book, The Pact (Davis, Jenkins & Hunt, 2003), three young, successful men speak of beating the odds and state, "Anyone with enough compassion has the power to transform and redirect someone else's troubled life." Effective educators recognize poverty's presence, but do not allow it to become a barrier to education.

Be READY to understand students' individual circumstances and areas of need. Poverty has universally defining characteristics, but not all students in poverty have the same experiences.   







Develop relationships. James Comer (2001) states "[n]o significant learning occurs without a significant relationship." Some educators have a natural ability for creating an environment where students feel they are important. Others must work to foster this environment. Today's educators must acknowledge the diversity of their student body and understand that students have differing experiences and comfort levels with relationship building.      







Maintain high expectations. Research supports maintaining high expectations to raise student achievement. As with others, students experiencing poverty must be afforded goals and expectations that require them to stretch and grow, but in turn are attainable. High performing, high poverty schools set high expectations for all students, assisting and supporting students as needed (Calibar Associates, 2015). 






Employ students' strengths and abilities while supporting individual needs. Educators should identify areas where students feel most successful and demonstrate the strongest abilities, and determine areas of deficit. Use these findings to guide academic goals and to maintain student interests in daily activities (Johnson, 2013).

Help SET the stage for students to advocate for their individual academic, emotional, and social needs. Use tools and resources available to assist in bridging the gap between poverty issues and positive learning outcomes, such as:


The Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD) Educational Leadership article, "Poverty and Learning: Nine Powerful Practices," in which Ruby Payne shares ways that educators may help students who live in poverty overcome potential challenges in the school setting.

The I'm Determined project's "Good Day Plan" template allowing each student to express what happens on a good day, how often those days are occurring, needs they may have to make a good day happen, and who may be able to help them experience good days.  

For more information and resources on poverty and education, GO to:  

* Bridges out of poverty: Strategies for professionals and communities by Ruby K. Payne, Philip E.  DeVol, & Terie Dreussi Smith (2006); aha! Process Inc.: Highlands, TX
Turning high-poverty schools into high-performing schools, by William Parrett & Kathleen M. Budge. Figure 10.3 on pages 160-161 provides a combination of practices supported by empirical evidence to lessen poverty related factors that adversely affect learning.

Calibar Associates for the Center for Public Education (CPE). (2005, August 22). High-performing, high-poverty schools: Research review. Retrieved April 08, 2015.


Comer, J. (2001, November 7). Schools that develop children. Retrieved April 17, 2015, from The American Prospect


Davis, S., Jenkins, G., & Hunt, R. (2003). The pact: Three young men make a promise and fulfill a dream. New York: Riverhead Books.


I'm Determined. Virginia Department of Education Self-Determination Project.


Johnson, C. (2013, Nov/Dec). Association for Middle Level Education (AMLE) Podcasts. Retrieved April 10, 2015, from AMLE.


Payne, R. (2008). Nine Powerful Practices. Educational Leadership, 65(7), 48-52. Retrieved April 10, 2015.

This news brief is a collaborative effort of the Virginia Department of Education Training and Technical Assistance Centers at George Mason University and James Madison University. This issue was prepared by the staff of the VDOE TTAC at James Madison University. For questions about content, please contact Jacki Nickel at, Amanda Randal at, or Cherish Skinker at, or call 540.568.6746.

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