Students Living in Poverty Exposed to Trauma and Stress

Guest Author
Aug 29, 2016 5:00:00 PM

By now, we are all familiar with the siren of low test scores. Alternatively, we hear just how very hard schools are working to serve their students. They are trying new things; implementing new programs; differentiating more instruction. But still, we are seeing test scores stagnant or falling. What is happening here? Where is the disconnect between what schools are doing and the results in student achievement? Teachers and leaders will say that they are serving very difficult populations and success is more complicated than test scores. But expectations need to remain high for all students, regardless of their circumstance, right?

Students in Michigan charters are more likely to live in poverty and live in urban settings.  An according to the American Academy of Pediatrics poverty is now the number one health concern for children.  Students living in chronic poverty are exposed to trauma and stress at extremely high rates.  In fact, research has suggested that between 80% and 100% of students in poverty in urban settings have been exposed to trauma and violence. 

Exposure to the conditions associated with extreme poverty manifests itself in ways very similar to post traumatic stress disorder. Concentration, impulse control, memory and trust are difficult when students are in a constant fight or flight mode. Achieving safety becomes top priority, and students have a difficult time calming or focusing their minds.  

Poverty rates are extremely high in our hardest to serve schools. We cannot in good conscious continue to beat the drum that poverty shouldn’t or doesn’t impact student achievement and demand high expectations without providing schools and teachers with the necessary skills and resources to serve these students. The evidence doesn’t bear this out. To acknowledge the impact that poverty has on a student, a classroom, a school and a community. And to keep expectations high, resources focused, and teachers supported to meet the needs of our most vulnerable students.


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