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Daily Dish: How Education Aids Students from Low-Income Families and Rural Communities

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January 07, 2016 02:20 pm


School is back in session, and the transition from home to the classroom is more difficult for some students, although not in the way one may think. NPR Ed reporter Meg Anderson explores the challenges of returning to the stability of school for students from low-income families, who spend the time during break in trying environments. “Living in poverty is often stressful, with families grappling to find the next meal, a warm place to sleep or quality child care,” says Anderson. Upon their return to school, students can be exhausted, behave aggressively or seem dependent, or not want to return home. “With 1 in 5 children in the U.S. living below the poverty line, this scenario plays out in classrooms nationwide every January,” Anderson writes.

These stressors can alter a child’s brain, and can “inhibit a child’s ability to manage his or her behavior,” according to Ross Thompson, who studies child social-emotional development and is a professor at University of California, Davis. Thompson also tells Anderson that this chronic stress can affect language and memory skills. To help these students adjust, Thompson stresses that if teachers are aware of students who are facing these types of issues, this can create empathy. Teacher prep is key, as Anderson notes, giving the example: “instead of kicking disruptive students out of the classroom, administrators can prepare teachers with strategies that address some of the issues that chronic stress can bring.”

In The Atlantic, reporter Rachel Martin discusses the effects of poverty on education in rural towns, and the role that schools can play in transforming local life. These communities are often plagued with problems including “widespread poverty, limited opportunity, and low college-attendance rates,” and rural school systems do make up “more than half of the nation’s operating school districts.” Martin examines these issues through the lens of a county in Tennessee, where nearly 40 percent of students are from low-income families. Martin explains the causes of the limited opportunities students face in the county, including proximity to school, the availability of jobs, and how traditionally, higher education “hasn’t been of much use” in the area. One school, York Agricultural Institute, is attempting to change all of that for this rural county, through dual-enrollment courses, vocational opportunities, and technology integration in classrooms. Read the full story.


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