The Effects of Poverty on Education

Course Outline

Course Description

Effects of Poverty on Education considers the impact of poverty on academic achievement. Course content includes effective ways teachers may empower students to overcome the barriers to learning that results from enduring the impact of poverty. The course emphasis is to develop a minimal, error-free, instructional system classroom teachers may use to teach all disadvantaged students.

The purpose of this course is to provide classroom teachers and school administrators the knowledge, strategies, and skills to challenge the barrier of poverty. To achieve this purpose, course process and content will draw upon the course text, "A Framework for Understanding Poverty," by Ruby K. Payne. In addition, equal emphasis will be upon the sociology of American schools and the cultural "trap" of poverty. We may provide many innovative and effective strategies to advance school reform, but if we do not address the impact of school sociology on academic achievement, school reform will be compromised. The innovative feature of this course is bringing together the framework for understanding poverty and the sociology (social context) that traps so many bright and capable students in a self-fulfilling dead-end. By joining these two aspects of poverty, teachers and school administrators will have the knowledge base and skills to effectively challenge barriers of impoverishment.


  • Articulate the issues of poverty, identification of the poor, and a review of research on poverty.
  • Develop a framework for understanding poverty.
  • Analyze pedagogical approaches for teaching students enduring impoverishment.
  • Define the cultural trap of poverty.
  • Identify racial and ethnic influences, coupled with poverty, that impact academic achievement and social adaptation.
  • Provide a framework for analyzing and understanding school sociology and its influence on academic achievement.
  • Investigate how to avoid the perception of victimization among students enduring impoverishment.
  • Develop a strategy for building relationships with students enduring poverty.
  • Identify available resources that can be used to alleviate conditions of poverty.
  • Design a plan-of-action to remove the barriers of impoverishment.

Curriculum Design & Time Requirements

This course will emphasize the development of insights and understandings of the impact of impoverishment upon schooling in America, and then to apply the insights and understandings to case studies and "real" problems. Participants will design, based on course process and content, a strategy for removing barriers directly resulting from poverty. The Effects of Poverty on Education is a 3 credit graduate level or forty-five hour professional development course taught on weekends or over five full days.

Course Materials

The required text for this course is "A Framework for Understanding Poverty," by Ruby K. Payne. In addition to the course text, students may receive supplemental material.

Session Outline

Session 1: Issues of Poverty, Identification of the Poor and Research on Poverty
  1. Social and economic issues associated with poverty
  2. Analysis of "free and reduced-price lunch" criteria and review of census (2000) data on American poverty
  3. Review of the literature and research on poverty in America...focus on academic achievement
  4. Definition of terms

Session 2: Develop a Framework for Understanding Poverty
  1. A culture of survival
  2. Skills needed to work with students enduring poverty
  3. Generational poverty
  4. Rules among classes (social classes)
  5. The role of language and story
  6. Case Study I

Session 3: The Pedagogical Approaches for Teaching Students Enduring Impoverishment
  1. Stage-setting

  2. Prerequisite analysis
  3. Prescribed remediation
  4. Detractor testing
  5. Assimilation of technology
  6. Brief overview of school context (sociology)
  7. Master Learning - authentic learning
  8. Case Study II

Session 4: The Cultural Trap of Poverty
  1. The issue of victimization
  2. The relationship between education and mobility
  3. The issue of hopelessness – no sense of future
  4. The impact of social polarization on students from poverty
  5. The issue of class structure in America
  6. The loss of commonalities, loss of empathy
  7. Case Study III

Session 5: Racial and Ethnic Influences
  1. Demographics:
    • Trends
    • Patterns
    • Immigration
    • Mobility
  2. Self-esteem and future placement
  3. Issues of prejudice and stereotyping
  4. Disfranchisement and the political process
  5. Paths to participation
  6. Case Study IV
  7. Mid-Term Exam

Session 6: School Sociology and Academic Achievement
  1. The origin of school cultures - the unknown segment
  2. Assimilation and differentiation, a choice
  3. Rejection, anger, and isolation
  4. Case Study V

Session 7: Avoid Perception of Victimization and Build Hope in a Possible Future
  1. The relationship between competence and victimization
  2. The future, choice, and responsibility
  3. Bridges out of poverty
  4. Create a vision of a future that is possible
  5. Staying focused - priorities - goal setting
  6. Take action - purposeful, persistently - fulfilling your future
  7. Self-management
  8. Plan-of-action that engages the present and relates to a future

Session 8: Develop a Strategy for Building Relationships with Students Enduring Poverty
  1. Creating relationships with students in poverty
  2. Identify skills students from poverty may acquire in school to build meaningful relationships with an adult(s)
  3. Teach the existing constraints of poverty and how to effectively overcome the constraints through meaningful adult relationships
  4. Address in the curriculum “real” problems student enduring poverty confront
  5. Teach for increased trust between teachers and students from poverty
  6. Build bridges to hope and future commitments
  7. Review, discipline, choices, and consequences
  8. Being bilingual in a monolingual classroom
  9. Inventing a new context
  10. Teach procedural self-talk

Session 9: Identifying Available Resources and Support Systems
  1. Making connections and coalition building
  2. Negotiating difficult situations
  3. Function and access to social services, law enforcement, and behavioral health care systems
  4. Welfare to work programs
  5. Emotional resources - resilient adults
  6. Mentors for impoverished students
  7. Resource building via acquired competence

Session 10: Design a Plan of Action
  1. Name, define, and describe barriers to academic and social competence that result from poverty
  2. Set realistic goals and describe strategies for reaching goals
  3. Provide a schedule for implementing the plan-of-action
  4. Complete the final exam


  Assignment Points   Grading Scale  
  Attendance   10      100 - 93 A
  Case Study Reviews (5)   20       92 - 85 B
Mid-Term Exam   10     84 - 77 C
Design, Plan of Action   30
Participation   15
  Final Exam   15  
  Total Points  100    

Student Requirements

1. Participants will assess five case studies using criteria developed during the course. Each assessment will be completed using a prescribed format outlined in the student manual.
2. Participants, based on course process and content, will design a plan-of-action to address the issues associated with the influence of poverty upon social and academic progress in their classroom or school.
3. Participants will complete a mid-term and final exam.


  • Allen,Vernon (1970). Psychological Factors in Poverty. Chicago: Markum Publishing Company.
  • Bloom, Benjamin (1976). Human Characteristics and School Learning. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Book Company.
  • Bruner, James S. (1973). The Relevance of Education, New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.
  • Coleman, J.C. & Coleman, J.S. (1980).The Nature of Adolescence. London and New York: Methuen
  • Connell, R.W.(1994).Poverty and Education. Harvard Educational Review. Vol. 64, No. 2, Summer.
  • Cossman, Richard (1996). The Evolution of Educational Computer Software, Education, Vol. 116.
  • Cropley, Arthur J. (2003). Creativity in Education & Learning: A Guide for Teachers and Educators, Sterling, VA; Kogan Page.
  • Danzinger, Sheldon H., Sandefur, Gary D., & Weinberg, Daniel H. (Eds.). (1994). Confronting Poverty: Prescriptions for Change. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
  • Davison, Mark L. et. al., (2004). When Do Children Fall Behind? What Can Be Done? Phi Delta Kappan, June, 2004, p. 752-761.
  • Ehrenreich, Barbara. (2001). Nickel and Dimed. New York, NY: Henry Holt and Company, LLC.
  • Elliott, J.R. (1999). Social Isolation and Labor Market Insulation: Network and Neighborhood Effects on Less Educated Urban Workers. Sociol. Q. 40(2): 199-216.
  • DeParle, Jason (2004). American Dream: Three Women, Ten Kids, and a Nation’s Drive to End Welfare. Viking Press.
  • Feagans, Lynne, & Farran, Dale C. editors. (1982). The Language of Children Reared in Poverty: Implications for Evaluation and Intervention. New York, NY: Academic Press.
  • Fletcher-Flinn, C.M. and Gravatt, B. (1995). The Efficacy of Computer Assisted Instruction (CAI); A Meta-Analysis. Journal of Educational Computing Research, 12, 219-242.
  • Gans, Herbert J. (1995). The War Against the Poor. New York, NY: Basic Books.
  • Garcia, R.L. (1991). Teaching in a Pluralistic Society: Concepts, Models, and Strategies. New York: Harper Collins.
  • Garmezy, Norman. (1991). Resiliency and vulnerability to adverse development outcomes associated with poverty. American Behavioral Scientist. Volume 34. Number 4. March/April.
  • Goleman, Daniel (1994). Emotional Intelligence. New York, NY: Bantam Books.
  • Gordon Rouse, Kimberly. (1998). Resilience from poverty and stress. Human Development Bulletin. Columbus, OH: Ohio Statesity University Extension. Spring.
  • Hart, Betty, and Risely, Todd R. (1999).Meaningful Differences in the Everyday Experience of Young American Children. Baltimore, MD: Paul H. Brookes Publishing Co.
  • Henderson, Nan. (1996). Resiliency in Schools: Making It Happen for Students and Educators. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.
  • Herrnstein, R.J., and Murray (1994). The Bell Curve: Intelligence and Class Structure in American Life. New York: Free Press.
  • Jencks, C. (1992). Rethinking Social Policy: Race, Poverty, and the Underclass. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
  • Jencks, C. and Peterson, P.(1991). The Urban Underclass. Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institute.
  • Jensen, A.R. (1973). Educability and Group Differences. London: Methuen
  • Jensen, A.R. (1974). “Ethnicity and Scholastic Achievement” Psychological Reports, 34, 659-668.
  • Joos, Martin. (1967). The styles of the five clocks. Language and Cultural Diversity in American Education. 1972. Abrahams, Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.
  • Miller, K. and Zener, E.Z. (1987). Teacher Effectiveness Training Workbook, Solana Beach CA. Gordon Training International, Inc.
  • National Center for Education Statistics (2002). Digest of Educational Statistics 2001. Washington, D.C. Government Printing Office.
  • Newman, Katherine S. (1999). No Shame in My Game: The Working Poor in the Inner City. New York, NY: A Borzoi Book, Alfred A. Knopf.
  • Olson, Krista, & Pavetti, LaDonna. (1996). Personal and family challenges to the successful transition from welfare to work. Washington, DC: The Urban Institue. May 17.
  • Orshansky, Mollie. The Measure of Poverty. Washington, DC: Department of Health Education and Welfare. HE 1.2: P. 86/paper 1.
  • Pavetti, LaDonna. (1997). Moving up, moving out or going nowhere? A study of the employment patterns of young women. Washington, DC: The Urban Institute. July.
  • Payne, Ruby K. (1998). The Framework for Understanding Poverty (Revised Edition). Baytown, TX: aha! Process.
  • Pedulla, Joseph J. State Mandated Testing – What Do Teachers Think? Educational Leadership, Vol. 61, No. 3, Nov. 2003, pp.42-49.
  • Quinn, Daniel. (1999). Beyond Civilization: Humanity’s Next Great Adventure. New York, NY: Harmony Books.
  • Reed, S. and Sautter, R.C. (1990). Children of Poverty: The Status of 12 Million Americans. Phi Delta Kappan 71(10), K1-K12.
  • Schank, Roger C. (1990). Tell Me a Story: Narrative and Intelligence. Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press.
  • So, Alvin Y. Ethnic and Language Minority. Urban Educator, Vol. 22, No. 1, April, 1987.
  • Spencer, M. and Baskin, L. (1997). Microcomputers and Young Children. Urbana, IL: ERIC No. Ed 32729583.
  • Steinberg, Stephen. (1981, 1989). The Ethnic Myth: Race, Ethnicity, and Class in America. Boston, MA: Beacon Press.
  • Stodolsky, S.S. and Lesser, G.S. Learning Patterns in the Disadvantaged. Harvard Educational Review, 1967, 37, 546-593.
  • Suskind, Ron. (1998). A Hope in the Unseen. New York, NY: Broadway Books.
  • Wilson, W.J. (1987). The Truly Disdavantaged: The Inner City, the Underclass, and Public Policy. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  • Wolin, Steven, & Wolin, Sybil. (1993). The Resilient Self: How Survivors of Troubled Families Rise Above Adversity. New York, NY: Random House.
  • Wray, Matt, & Newitz, Annalee. (Eds.). (1997). White Trash: Race and Class in America. New York, NY: Routledge.

Online Resources

Web Sites addressing poverty issues:

Centers and Institutes

Student Academic Integrity

Participants guarantee that all academic class work is original. Any academic dishonesty or plagiarism (to take ideas, writings, etc. from another and offer them as one's own), is a violation of student academic behavior standards as outlined by our partnering colleges and universities and is subject to academic disciplinary action.


To register to take TEI's The Effects of Poverty on Education course, go to the Course Registration page.