The Effects Of Lower Socioeconomic Status' (Ses) On Academic Performance

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The academic skill of a student is impacted by many different components: the acquired skills and experiences of the teacher, the development of new teaching techniques and reference materials, as well as the adaptive tools being used by the administration. These factors, in most cases, advance student achievement and encourage them to become better scholars. Though, there are instances whereas these factors are outweighed by the social aspects of a student’s life. Aspects such as, home circumstances, parent attitudes and ambitions, and the surrounding environment whether it be nurturing or neglectful.

The negative factors, most commonly occur in the more poverty-stricken families, wherein multi generational cycles of children, grow up starved of an environment where academia plays a role in improving one’s status. If parents are operating within a framework wherein education is not of value, be it a biased against the educational system or the preconceived perception that education cannot and does not play a role in improving one’s socioeconomic status, nor that of their children, the child will be more likely to grow up with that same understanding, ending up at a grave disadvantage. If we create or build an education system based the ideology of “one size fits all” and then create a structure within that ideology that is so rigid and not flexible to adaptability, we will leave the individual school and teachers without the ability to adapt the school to the needs of the student body and have just then reinforced the idea that education is not going to help said students in life. These lower classes tend to be “gang” type societies where crime and incarceration rates among youth are higher than graduation rates. Children are influenced and brought up with the same beliefs as these gangs, meaning education is not of value, and owning a gun is more important that owning a textbook. Home influences will always greatly affect the quality of education a child will receive. “Poorer children and teens are also at greater risk for several negative outcomes such as poor academic achievement, school dropout, abuse and neglect, behavioral and socioemotional problems, physical health problems, and developmental delays. ” [American Psychological Association, 2011]

These outcomes can be also a result of the parents having prejudice against the education system, the child being forced to prioritize work over school in order to provide for their family, or even abuse within the home where, to a child, education won’t help them survive. In lower-class social groups parents tend to have the preconception that the education system is rigged and unable to impact them, or their child’s, life, then that ideology is passed down to the child. When they have been influenced by this perception, a student won’t bother to strive in academic aspects, thusly, resulting in the focus being on social aspects. Many children in a lower socioeconomic class however, simply don’t have the ability or time to thrive in school. They are forced to work in order to feed their family or have to watch/take care of younger family members while their parents are at work; leaving no room for school or homework. Some children are coming from more aggressive backgrounds where abuse is all they know and though exposure to violence affects all socioeconomic groups, adolescent from these lower-class backgrounds tend to have an increased exposure to it leading to a likelihood of violent tendencies. “Among urban black adolescents, retrospective reports of witnessing violence and victimization were the strongest predictors of current use of violence, such as involvement in fights and the carrying of weapons” [Durant, Cadenhead, Pendergrast, Slavens, & Linder, 1994]. When children are subjected to aggression at a young age, the consequences can be extremely damaging to their development. “Exposure to violence has been consistently linked to antisocial behavior among youth” [Chelsea M. Weaver, Department of Psychology, University of Notre Dame, 2008]. When abuse is present in a child’s developmental stages, they will be highly likely to suffer due to physical and mental disabilities. Such mental disabilities include depression. “. . . family factors play a large role in depression. Research suggests that family factors also play a large role in absenteeism in school [Elizabeth Pessin, International Health Researcher, Educator and Mentor, 2015]. Depression can cause difficulties in or even the complete avoidance of school due to: overwhelming anxiety, general discontent, hopelessness, and an irregular student’s sleep pattern [Mayo Clinic, 2017]. When a student is suffering from these symptoms of depression, the idea that school is going to help them and improve their life is clouded. Leaving the child with no motivation to excel academically, which reinforces their view of their future being grim and bleak.

There are, however, rare occasions where these circumstances push a student to excel. Where the child is forced to improve in order to survive. Oprah Winfrey, for example, came from very rough beginnings, she even considered suicide several times. Yet, her suffrage led to her strength and helped her become one of the most successful and richest self-made women in the world. Student who have parents that promote and actively foster their children’s talents, opinions, and skills are much more likely to succeed and flourish academically. This is because “strong, secure relationships help stabilize children’s behavior and provide the core guidance needed to build lifelong social skills. ” [Eric Jensen, Founder of Brain-Based Teaching]. Those students who grow up environments where these type of relationships are present, they learn healthy social skills and proper emotional responses to all different types of situations. However, children brought up in low-income households and communities will often fail to adopt these types of responses. And overall this loss of knowledge ends becoming damaging in their social lives and of their school performances. For example, students with an impairment in their emotional regulation, may get so frustrated, even by something as small as their pencil tip breaking, that they end up giving up on their task; even if completion and success was just moments away. Social dysfunction may even impede a students’ ability to work well in cooperative groups, thusly creating exclusion and a decrease in collaboration. This will only exacerbate those students’ already troubling academic performance and behavior.

When teachers perceive a child’s social shortfalls as disrespectful, they may become angry or frustrated with that student and punish them for something they simply cannot control. It is more helpful for the child if the teacher is able to understand where they are coming from. As well as how, some of them come to school without the appropriate tools and skills to handle certain emotional responses. The teachers and schools who cannot do this, who cannot adjust and adapt to a students needs, will ultimately fail the very children they claim to care so much about. “The difference between a good and bad teacher can translate into one’s year’s worth of learning per year” [Stanford Economist, Eric Hanushek]. This brings up the topic of the “No Child Left Behind” Act passed in 2002 by President George Bush. This act is a federal law that gives extra money to schools that need educational assistance for poorer children, in return for improvements in their academic progress. Though many schools claim to be focused on this idea and system, a study reported by America’s Promise Alliance stated that nationwide, nearly 1. 2 million poor students drop out of school every year and that about seven out of ten of students graduate on time. So overall, about 30% of students are being left behind. Some education boards seem to think that by repeating the same techniques year after year is going to somehow change the graduation rate of lower class students. But no matter how hard you work it, continuing with the same approach and expecting a different result, is not a description of success, it’s the definition of insanity. But, it is even worse when the teachers or board of ED simply don’t care enough about their students, whether it be a lack of understanding for mental shortfalls or even differences in religious/cultural beliefs.

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For example, a student named Ben Johnson, age nine, suffered from a mental breakdown after years of difficulties at home, as well as school. His life at home was emotionally abusive and his family was very poor. His childhood ended up causing him to have severe anxiety and antisocial behaviors. He began having issues with his academics. When Ben’s social issues were brought up with the school, his mother says she was promised that he would be referred for an EHC plan (“An EHC plan is a legal document that describes a child’s special educational, health and social care needs. It explains the extra help that will be given to meet those needs and how that help will support the child or young person to achieve what they want to in their life”) but teachers did not do so and insisted that he was managing, meaning he did not need one.

Three years later however, Ben’s worsening physical and mental state forced his mother requested an “EHC needs assessment” herself. The school council however refused. Even though his doctors, a psychiatrist, a paediatrician and a neurologist, had said he needed extra assistance at school. Ben ended up, with no other choice, but to drop out of public school and seek home tutoring. Students in cases like those, feel helpless and see that if their own teachers and peers won’t help them, then what’s the point of trying at all. Ultimately, they accept that idea, that is being presented to them, that they cannot get help and that there is no use in trying. Those students who already have grown up without a value of education, with no support from anyone, give up and drop out. Another instance where the board of ED has denied students their right to education is when Butler Traditional High School in Louisville, Kentucky banned dreadlocks, cornrows, and twists (popular African American hairstyles, {22% of the lower SES}) and threatened to deny admission/suspend those who would not follow this rule. One parent, Attica Woodson Scoot, made a statement to the Courier-Journal, “I don’t understand why we’re going to focus on something like natural hair styles when we should be focused on education, they specifically outlined hairstyles that are worn by black kids. To me, this stinks of institutional racism. ” [Matthew Rodriguez, Mic, 2016] Many argue that this school has just violated the first amendment “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances. ” And the interpretations of the “free speech” section of this amendment is highly debated over. There are many who believe free speech can be symbolic and involve no words at all, as long as it involves symbols that the courts have judged to be forms of free expression. Many people believe dreadlocks and such apply under a form of “symbolic” free speech because it represents African American heritage and culture.

This Kentucky High School has undeniably hindered the learning achievement of a large portion of it’s students. How is this behavior supposed to encourage kids to enjoy going to school when you are denying them the ability to express themselves. Students won’t want to learn if it means they have to change who they are. A child’s surrounding social environment also plays a role in their view of education and their overall mental health. Lower class communities tend to consist of multiple gang-type affiliations. The consequences stemming from gang involvement can have short and long-term effects. The youth who do become involved in gangs face the increased risk of dropping out of school. “The high number of dropouts–more than 18,000 in 1984–contributes to increased street gang activity” stated a report by the Illinois State Task Force on Hispanic Student Dropouts. During that study, Sen. of Illinois, Edward Nedza also had stated that 95 percent of the inmates at the maximum-security Stateville penitentiary had dropped out of high school. [Hanke Gratteau, Chicago Tribune, 1985] Furthermore, since student involvement with gangs has a direct impact on academic achievement, this causes an increased likelihood of economic penury. This involvement is not the child’s choice however, when growing up in these environment. A source document written by John Dewey, 1916, made a point that “they [the children of these societies] are reduced to mere servants of attaining pleasure and reducing pain. ” Thusly, their actions are simply to reduce and prevent pain because they have no other choice. Young people join gangs for various reasons, including money, sense of support and belonging, peer status, perceived sense of protection, or to demonstrate an outlaw mentality. The most common age for youth to join a gang is between 13 and 15.

Teens in gangs are more likely to abuse drugs, and girls who join gangs are highly-likely to experience sexual abuse. These environments also tend to lack diversity of stimulation, diversity among the types of experiences that occur; both negative and positive. This absence, causes a lack of novelty, meaning the loss of challenge to ones thought. Gang-type societies can increase social difficulties among individuals “The isolation and exclusiveness of a gang or clique brings its antisocial spirit into relief. . . the essential point is that isolation makes for rigidity and formal institutionalizing of life” [John Dewey, 1916] When students haven’t developed the correct social habits they are more likely to have difficulties in a school environment because of their lack of the ability to relate with others or their lack of being able to express themselves in a positive, healthy way. Socioeconomic status really impacts not financial security, but also educational attainments and the overall psychological health of a person. Thusly, it is a consistent and reliable predictor of a vast array of outcomes across the life span. The underlying causes for the relationships between low SES and child academic performance is “complex and multifactorial” [Res Dev Disabil, Author, 2014]. Decreased academic achievement is associated with the quality of home life, school life, and the overall surrounding environment of a child living a poverty-stricken community. Since, children from low-socioeconomic status households and communities are extremely more likely to learn their academic skills slower than say children who come from higher SES groups [Morgan, Farkas, Hillemeier, & Maczuga, 2009]. Research shows that children coming from these communities develop poor language memory, cognitive development, and tend to have difficulties with processing their emotions. [Aikens & Barbarin, 2008] Children with these struggles tend to turn to crime and join gangs. On top of this, the school systems in poor areas are often misunderstanding of their students, or even the punishing of those who have difficulties learning. This is where the improvement of the educational system is crucial in order to help improve the academic performance of each student.

However, this alone, will not solve the problem as a whole. A child still may possess issues outside of the school environment. DCF ( Department of Children and Families) for example already implements early interventions or even removal of a child from of an abusive home. Better job opportunities are crucial in ensuring a decreased incarceration rate of the poverty-class citizens. When, students see that if they work, lawfully, their is in fact a payoff. If the improvement of home life and school life are being aggressively pursued, it is a hope that future generations in low-SES communities will have more opportunities and won’t be forced into a life of crime and gang violence. Thusly, improving the environment all together.

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