Poor Kids Struggle in School

 Poor_ChildrenI’ll bet you already knew this, right?

Ever since I was in elementary school I have realized that my classmates who came from “poor” families struggled in the classroom. The kids with shabby shirts, stained skirts, worn out sneakers and (horrors!) last year’s fashions were the ones who were in the lower ranked classrooms. Yes, we were all sorted into classrooms of “high achievers” and on down the GPA rankings (grade point average). Is this still true today? If so, why? And what can be done?

New research today strongly associates poverty with impaired brain development that in turn results in cognitive delays and low academic success… Researchers write in a new issue of JAMA Pediatrics  “…children living 1.5 times below the federal poverty level had smaller volumes of several brain regions critical for cognitive and academic performance (gray matter, frontal and temporal lobes, and the hippocampus).”

So what can be done?  This study does a fine job of documenting the brain development consequences for something that confirms common sense obeservations but stops short at describing the problems without addressing the “so what?” question. What are parents and schools supposed to do?? More homework? More tests? Harder tests?  More tutoring?

What is missing from this not-so-new information that poverty produces negative consequences is that these kids also have strengths that often go unrecognized and unappreciated in the school environment. Their weaknesses may be in reading and math but if we get stuck there then we will ignore their cognitive strengths and they will be further marginalized. This is where we need a Multiple Intelligences perspective to help us see beyond the weaknesses in order to activate strengths in the service of maximizing whole child development. Yes, we need to look beyond the 3 Rs – ‘readin’, ‘ritin’ and ‘rithematic – in order to tackle this problem in a strengths-based way.

If we simply hammer at students’ problems with more of the same-old-same-old then we’ll drive them even further off the map and into the margins of both school and society.

This is where the the MIDAS™ assessment is important for both parents and teachers. Parents need to supplement the child’s schooling with an enriched range of fun learning activities in the child’s “real life.”  Where to start? Is the question asked first by many parents who are feeling overwhelmed. A MIDAS Profile provides parents with a “map” that can focus your attention on fun activities that will also enhance your child’s thinking skills.

To Learn more, I recommend my book ONE FAMILY. You can also find FREE tips on my website:  www.MIResearch.org




Hair  NL. Hanson  JL, Wolfe  BL, Pollak  SD.  Association of child poverty, brain development, and academic achievement [published online July 20, 2015]. JAMA Pediatr. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2015.1475.