Lyndsey school readiness as, “the reflection of a child’s

Lyndsey
Layton, a writer who covers education-related issues for The Washington Post, argued that for the first time in at least 50
years, “a majority of U.S. public school students come from low-income
families, according to a new federal analysis of 2013 federal data.” Cynthia
Hudley, a graduate professor of education at the University of California,
Santa Barbara, reaffirms this claim when she discussed how 64% of students in
public schools qualify for free lunch programs, indicating that these
children’s’ families are close by the federal poverty level (Hudley).

Furthermore, the 2013 federal data discovered that the highest rates of poor
students live in the southern and western states such as in Illinois, in which one
in two students were low-income (Layton). While this may seem shocking, the
situation is even worse in Mississippi, where seventy percent of students live
with low-income families (Layton).

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         In addition to the massive number of
students in the low-income category, the types of classrooms and resources in
low-income areas are far more inferior to those of higher-income areas
(Hudley). Mathematics and science courses taught in these areas are two and
three times more likely to be taught by teachers with credentials in other
subjects, respectively (Hudley). Moreover, low-income areas significantly lag
behind more affluent areas in regards to the availabilities of college preparatory
and AP classes and teachers are often forced to use outdated resources ¾older textbooks, computers, and other technology¾ to teach the curriculum (Hudley). To make matters worse, states
with high-poverty rates spend less per student (Layton). Layton discussed how
of the 27 states with the highest percentages of poverty, “all but 5 states
spent less than the national average of $10,938.”

         Dr.

H.B. Ferguson, a specialist in adolescent psychiatry, defines school readiness
as, “the reflection of a child’s ability to succeed both academically and
socially in a school environment.” It requires one to be physically and
mentally fit with the age appropriate skills in regards to motor development,
language skills, and general knowledge (Ferguson). As evidenced in tests
measuring school readiness, children from low-income households start school
already behind their peers who come from higher-income households (Ferguson).

In addition, Patrice Engle, a professor of psychology at the California
Polytechnic University of San Luis Obispo, noted that children belonging to the
highest-income quintile of the country are more than twice as likely than their
lower-income counterparts to attend preschool. Low-income parents also have
more children than higher-income parents, meaning that there are more poor
students entering the public school system than there of middle and upper class
families (Layton). These shifts to a student population, in which the majority
of students are poor, dauntingly indicates that even more children who enter
kindergarten are academically behind their richer peers (Layton).

         As
the number of low-income students entering the public school system increases,
the severity of the consequences impact a broad range of individuals. Perhaps
the most severe consequence is a large achievement gap between low-income and
high-income students. As previously mentioned, lower-income areas have fewer
resources available for their students to use. This lack of resources can
diminish student engagement and achievement (Hudley). In fact, Hudley mentioned
that in a reform initiative that provided laptops and Internet to students in
an urban high school, that initiative allowed for students to perform better in
standardized tests, increased students’ motivation, and allowed for
technological literacy in adolescents in the eighth and ninth grade.

         According
to Dr. Ferguson, children from low-income households score lower on measures of
reading, writing, mathematical skills, symbol use and copying, and the ability
to concentrate and cooperatively play with other peers than their higher-income
counterparts score. This is validated as various studies found that those who
attend preschool score higher on “measures of child development, such as
literacy, vocabulary, mathematics, quantitative reasoning, and teacher
assessments of performance at the end of the year” (Engle). Thus, students who
attend preschool demonstrably perform better even later in elementary school,
such as in second and third grade (Engle). However, as it becomes increasingly
difficult for low-income families to afford preschool for their children, it is
no surprise that these students not only arrive at school with cognitive and
behavioral challenges, but also with less knowledge than their upper class peers
(Ferguson).  

         Unfortunately,
the root causes of lower-income students receiving an inadequate education
include poverty, underdeveloped learning standards, poor parent-child
relationships, and the emotional-well being of children. Dr. Jack P. Shonkoff,
a professor of child health and development at Harvard University, claims that
scientists now know that “chronic, unrelenting stress in early childhood,
caused by extreme poverty, repeated abuse, or severe maternal depression can be
toxic to the developing brain.” Dr. Ferguson validates this claim through
Canadian research that has confirmed poverty’s negative influence on behavior,
achievement, and retention in school (Ferguson). In particular, six factors of
poverty influence a child’s social network, which in turn affect their learning
and retention in school: depth, incidence, duration, community.  characteristics, timing, and impact of poverty
(Ferguson). In addition to poverty, a child’s lifestyle in his or her home
greatly influences his or her school readiness.

         A
healthy parent-child relationship is proven to be the greatest way to reduce
the effects of poverty on a child’s education. Parents involved in their
children’s lifestyle, such as a frequency of outings and problem-based play,
allows for greater intellectual stimulation and educational support for a child
(Ferguson). This allows for one to develop an increased school readiness
(Ferguson). In addition, Valerie Strauss, a writer for The Washington Post who covers education-related issues, claims
that children develop learning
concepts through play since they learn to cope and make life experiences,
develop critical human capacities such as “problem solving, imagination,
self-regulation, and original thinking.” However, low-income children are less
likely to have the support they need at home, rarely exposed to enriching
activities such as play, and more likely to drop out of school and fail to
attend college (Layton). In addition, U.S. learning standards do not
acknowledge play as a core component of learning (Strauss). Rather, emphasis is
put on content that needs to be learned (Strauss). Thus, low-income children
who do not receive play experiences at home do not get an adequate number of
play experiences at school either, preventing them from developing the critical
human capacities mentioned earlier (Strauss: Early Childhood Education Expert).

         To
make matters worse, low-income children who do not receive the crucial
development stimuli from home and at school are at a critical disadvantage in
regards to the development of the brain. Dr. Shonkoff argues that the brain’s
capacity for change decreases with age. He claims that the brain is at its peak
flexibility (or “plasticity”) early in life, in order to accommodate the
variety of environments and experiences that an infant interacts in. However,
Dr. Shonkoff notes that as an individual’s brain matures, it specializes and
focused on certain tasks that the individual consistently performs. Thus, the
brain is more “plastic” in an individual’s early years in life, making it
easier and more convenient to influence the development of infrastructure of
the brain rather than rewriting its circuitry as the individual becomes a
teenager and adult (Shonkoff).

         Finally,
the emotional-well being of children plays an important role in establishing
the foundation for developing cognitive abilities in young children (Shonkoff).

In addition, the emotional and physical health, cognitive-linguistic
capacities, and social skills, which emerge in the development period of an
individual, are all necessary for school readiness and success in one’s
workplace and community (Shonkoff). Dr. Ferguson adds to these claims by
mentioning how socioeconomic disadvantages (e.g. poverty) impair the proper
cognitive development, which in turn, takes a toll on a child’s academic
achievement.

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