Kids are getting poorer. Are they also getting harder to teach?

The Georgia Budget & Policy Institute issued a report today on the rising poverty in the state. As I read the figures — one out of every five children was poor in 2008 — I wondered about the implication for schools.

The state’s job losses have stung every economic strata, so I am sure that all schools, urban, suburban and rural, are feeling the impact. It ranges from flagging fund raisers – some schools are reporting anemic wrapping paper sales this year — to students losing their homes.

Are these family stresses spilling into classrooms? I know many families in which one or two parents are jobless, and it’s changed what they can do with and for their children. Fewer summer camps, no more travel soccer.

Are you seeing a change in students? Is there more acting out in school as students react to troubles at home? Are parents less involved? Are calls for donations and field trip fees going unheeded?

According to the policy center report:

-Georgia ’s 2008 median household income is $50,861.

-The number of individuals living in poverty in 2008 grew by 57,104 from 2007.

-Georgia’s overall poverty rate rose to 14.7 percent in 2008, well above its 2001 level of 11.7 percent during the last recession.

-Roughly one in 7 individuals lived in poverty in 2008. The state’s poverty rate is 14th highest in the country.

No matter how hard parents try, I think kids pick up on financial strains. (Explaining to her twin brother why their pal brought $20 to spend at a carnival this weekend, my 10-year-old daughter said, “He’s an only child and his parents don’t have to pay for their older children’s colleges.” )

On top of this, teachers are dealing with financial strains as well since many of them have spouses without jobs.

Is everyone more anxious this year and does it impede learning?

6 comments Add your comment


September 30th, 2009
5:41 am

It’s somewhat visible. In my classrooms, there are a few more absentees, and kids who seem generally down. Not everyone obviously. For some, school is a respite, time away from the stress. There have also been a few spontaneous “he moved”.

From the teaching side, the paycut from the State hasn’t helped. The 3 day furlough in my County almost adds up to a 5% cut each month, and word is that more furlough days are on the way in Spring 2010. Should be interesting to make up the missed “Flood Days” on top of that.

I’m still thankful for what I have, and feel grateful I can help these kids though!


September 30th, 2009
6:20 am

Off topic: Received first furlough check today. I am short $220 for this month. I thought had done so well paying off that car note. I guess our $100. “Sonny money” was just too much for the budget.


September 30th, 2009
6:47 am

A slight change of subject: I am appauled at the simplistic article in the paper that being suspended causes children to drop out. I guess we now will say that drinking coffee on an airline causes air turbulance!

Children are suspended for a reason. In my school, virtually NEVER, even for ISS. But I accept that in other counties discipline standards are better adhered-to. Children who are suspended have ALREADY dropped out–they have already disengaged, for various reasons, with their education. The children who do behave appropriately are already subjected to many, many hours of disruption by these in-school dropouts. That many of them are way behind is not a surprise. One of the ways that students get behind is failing to take any responsibility for their learning. I currently push into 2 classes where the majority of the students are a year or two behind in reading NOT because of lack of ability, but because their behavior interferes in their learning. They are accustomed to doing as they wish, and have no practice in focusing on anything they don’t want to do. Luckily they are grouped together now so they don’t impede the learning of so many others in reading. Unfortunately there are still a few kids in these classes who do want to learn but are impeded by lack of English. I’d like to get them out of there, as they lose significant time waiting on their classmates to engage in a positive way so that the class can go forward.

While being sent out of class is frequently a negative for these kids, it is a positive for the others in the class. And sometimes, as noted in the article, the PARENT can make the ISS experience positive for the child by reinforcing that it should not happen again.

Like the old days when parents had pride in their children’s positive behavior, instead of whining and giving more attention to them as “victims.”


September 30th, 2009
7:07 am

catlady – Thank you for addressing that article! I scrolled down to the bottom to see if there was a place to comment on it, since I was so livid. The mom in the article said that by the time her son graduated, “she was so tired.” How does she think her son’s teachers felt? I

I currently have a class with 31 students in it, and up to 10 of them are ISS or OSS on any given day. That means that I have to attempt to catch them up when they come back, when they were never where they should’ve been academically anyway.

It is sad, but, there are days when I’ll see certain names on the list for ISS or OSS, and I breathe a sigh of relief, because I know that there will be some teaching and learning going on, instead of me disciplining for 53 minutes.

Parents – by the time your child gets OSS (in Gwinnett County), there have been MANY steps taken, and MANY interventions offered. Stop looking at your children as victims and try to teach them how to behave, how to respect adults and authority, and why they should value their education.

DeKalb Conservative

September 30th, 2009
1:56 pm

Are people really getting poorer? We are talking about minor income drops. I’ll stereotype that man poor people will have cable tv, high speed internet, a possible plasma tv, a cell phone (if not multiples).

What we call “poor” today isn’t always a good word choice when you look at the standard of living.


September 30th, 2009
9:48 pm

Here’s the problem I see: on parent conference nights, the students who have As and Bs are the ones whose parents show up. Students with Ds and Fs, however, have parents that can’t make it to the school much less answer a phone call.