How does socioeconomics influence educational success?

As educators, we have all observed the child who does poorly in school and the child who excels. Maybe we’ve also noticed that often times parents are difficult to get ahold of on both sides of the spectrum. Students who struggle in the classroom will most likely succeed with additional support at home; however, they’re not always receiving it. There could be a number of factors that contribute to this, but when we’re looking at the topic of socioeconomics, this often means that this particular child has parents who are uninvolved, struggling with money, working most hours of the day, struggling in their personal relationships, and unable to give the time and attention required to help their child become motivated about their education. In general, students who have a higher socioeconomic status are more likely to achieve success due to the amount of resources they have access to and parental involvement. Many schools in “high need” areas are not afforded the opportunity to have parents totally involved in their child’s academic life. As a result, the cycle of poverty continues due to uninvolved parents who cannot provide the support that their children need outside of school in order to succeed. While status is not a guarantee to academic success or failure, it does serve as an important factor that can affect both. However, socioeconomic status and its effects on education can go two ways; either it increases your chances of educational success or diminishes it.  More difficult to understand, as we will see presented through the sources provided, being poor does not singularly correlate to being less successful and vice versa being rich to greater success. In essence, we have to reimagine the scale in which we measure one’s educational status and begin to question ourselves if economics and social status is a true indicator of success.  

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“After the Bell: Participation in Extracurricular Activities, Classroom Behavior, and Academic Achievement”

Unknown, Unknown

Browsing for sources, I stumbled upon the image above.  The website/blogsite features this image under the title of an article Youth, Devil and the Radical Mediocrity.  The article does not focus on our groups focus question per say, yet the image itself spurs a deep imagination within me that connects to socio-economics and its relation to education.  To understand my connection, I try to describe the vision in my mind in the short excerpt below.  Enjoy!

Close your eyes and imagine a classroom devoid of resources.  One that is located in a central hub of traffic yet destitute of capital.  You might see an array of students muddling through the creaky water stained doorways, finding their seats waiting for a weary instructor who enters with eyes hung downcast yet with the twinkle of hope that his students will be eager today.  Look closely now at the desk and become mindful of the graffiti and cracks of age.  Glance at the floors which show years, decades of splintered chaos.  

You are then asked to open your textbooks to begin todays lesson.  You reach for your textbook but you realize someone has placed it under the pillar on your right in order to support the foundation above you.  There goes your only possession in the classroom; one of the things that still held your attention, the nice crisp book substituted for concrete.  Your dreams crushed almost in complete unison with the book itself, you scoot to your left and huddle with your partner who has the “ok book” and turn the greasy pages.   

Deep within this scene, among the dust and peril, does there lie the desire to lick the pages with your eyes as you hone in on the teacher’s speech?  Do you feel the passion to exhibit the same determination as the instructor while entering the lesson?  Can you get motivated when everyone else has forgotten about you and your education?  


About MOVE

Unknown, Unknown

MOVE is an organization born in the 1970’s which stresses an “Anachro-primitive”  way of life. This reformation movement stresses its members to live a very primitive life which includes eating raw meat, living together in small communities, strenuous work, and most important rejecting “The System.”  Its founder John Africa was raised illiterate and as a response, created the MOVE movement which consisted primarily of African-American participants although they accept every race into their group.  

MOVE relates to the topic of socio-economics and education due to the stress of rejection of formal educational systems.  They see educational systems as “miseducation, brainwashing, and indoctrination.” The MOVE members have had several infamous encounters with the law from 1970’s through the 1980’s, most notably the City of Philadelphia, and have successfully fought off many cases with their brilliant self taught lawyers all taught under the original members of MOVE and John Africa.  The MOVE movement has proven that typical educational standards and economic status does not necessarily invoke success.  

The movement also provides an example of sociological disenfranchisement of African Americans led to an anarchist movement focused around re-education and rejecting the status quo.  It would not be inaccurate to describe MOVE’s motives for creating an anarchist organization were based upon the ongoing discriminatory and unequal practices of the decades preceding the movement.



Unknown, Unknown

Socio-economics is an important factor to determine the outcome of educational success or failure. As previously stated, being poor does not singularly correlate to being less successful and vice versa being rich to greater success. While this information has been repeatedly researched and tested to be true, it is not the only factor. The following article explicitly details other factors that may influence educational outcome.

Other factors include chronic stress, which has been proven, through research, to be more detrimental to the education process then anything else. Not only does it affect the process of learning and motivation, but chronic stress can also limit the expectations and visions of those who experience it. This type of stress is most commonly seen in individuals from a lower socioeconomic setting.

People from all walks of life have varying opinions about the subject at hand. It was really interesting to understand the opinions of both people who are professionals, as well as society’s common citizens. The following videos will allow you to view the perspective of various people on this subject.
Socioeconomic Status and Barriers to Education: Monica Korakula at TED British School of Brussels and The Effect of Low Socio-Economic Status on Student Education.


Education Inequality

This image was found while doing a general search of our inquiry question. What I found most interesting was the absolute truth that it speaks in regard to educational inequality. Since we are discussing socioeconomic status, we can look at the various school districts based on overall cost of living.

A school district in a wealthy suburb (let’s assume Westchester since we are all familiar with New York) will be likelier to have better education; whereas, a lower income area will not have as good of an education system. Growing up, my school in Thornwood, NY, a town in Westchester County, was ranked #800 out of all of the high schools in the United States. While this might not be right, our teachers used to tell us that we should have no problem passing our Regent’s Exams because they were geared towards students in the Bronx and Harlem being able to pass them. To us, this indicated that those students were not receiving the same education and their overall educational success was suffering because of it.

One of my friends went to Mt. Vernon Schools in the early 2000’s and said that his quality of education was terrible in comparison to mine or some of his other friends. He says that he was not prepared properly for education beyond high school because none of his classes challenged him and asked to him to think critically. He maintains the thought that if he received a better education, lived in a better area, and had a supportive family life that he would be more successful today. He also thinks that he would’ve found success with less of a struggle.

Often, we find unmotivated students in low income areas because the students aren’t receiving the proper support, guidance, and motivation at home. Likewise, the teachers are unmotivated because they find it difficult to get their students to pay attention and become excited about their education. As we mentioned above in another artifact, students suffer from stress from multiple aspects of their life. Their performance suffers when they are experiencing excess stress, which can sometimes come from their home life, among other sources. This picture outlines the fact that the scale of educational success and equality tips to those with more money, while those with less money often suffer to find the same success and equality.

The Achievement Gap and the Importance of Pre-school

The above article is a beautifully written article truly outlining the problems that arise when we look at educational inequality. It discusses the differences in reading, math, and science levels among various races, while also touching on the differences between schools in a poverty stricken urban area and schools in a wealthy suburban area that are both in the same state within close range of each other. A great idea that is discussed throughout this article is that we can fix inequality as a whole by first fixing educational inequality. The author believes, based on research, that by addressing the inequalities and problems in our education system, we can give people an overall better chance at success. Harvard Graduate School of Education Dean James E. Ryan, a former public interest lawyer says, “Right now, there exists an almost ironclad link between a child’s ZIP code and her chances of success. Our education system, traditionally thought of as the chief mechanism to address the opportunity gap, instead too often reflects the entrenches existing societal inequities.”

According to Fryer and Ferguson, the achievement gap starts quite earlier. Based on what Ferguson calls “skill patterns”, one year olds that are white, Asian, black, and Hispanic all score virtually the same. These “skill patterns” measure cognitive ability among toddlers which includes examining objects, exploring purposefully, and “expressive jabbering.” However, the achievement gap becomes apparent at age 2 where black and Hispanic children score lower in expressive vocabulary, listening comprehension, and other indicators of acuity. What the article suggests is that educational achievement involves more than just schooling, which typically starts at age 5.  


Following the same idea, I read another article that suggested that preschool is a very important step in a child’s development and education and could also indicate achievement. Families with less money may not be able to afford to send their child to preschool or some form of pre-Kindergarten or Nursery School. It costs almost $2000 a month for a typical full-time preschool or daycare. The effects of this are seen when those children who did not attend a pre-Kindergarten school of some description are falling behind their classmates who did attend preschool. Eventually, some students can be up to 8 months or a year behind their same aged classmates just because they did not attend preschool. This information correlates with Fryer and Ferguson’s idea of the achievement gap starting early and involving more than just regular schooling.

Above is the article discussing educational inequality seeping into preschool classrooms. Most of this article focuses more on the idea that preschool teachers make very little money while doing a very important job, which is developing the foundational education of the next generation. While I agree this is a very important topic and a problem, the information discussing the educational gap between those who attend preschool and those who don’t was more pertinent to our inquiry question.


After the Bell

The article After the Bell: Participation in Extracurricular Activities, Classroom Behavior, and Academic Achievement by  Covay and Carbonaro (2010), adds to the literature that discuss the socioeconomic gap by examining the inequalities amongst different socioeconomic groups  in regards to access to extracurricular activities. Covay and Carbonaro’s article is related to our group’s inquiry question because it discusses how socioeconomic status (SES) influences academic success by analyzing how participation in extracurricular activities can promote the development of useful noncognitive skills.  Covay and Carbonaro investigated how socioeconomic status (SES)  advantage and  schooling outcomes relate to participation in extracurricular activities.  Covay and Carbonaro focused on the unequal access to learning opportunities that elementary school students receive outside of the  typical school curriculum and the immediate home environment.  They set out to discover if extracurricular activities provided a supplementary source of advantage for high-SES students that helped them increase their chances of school success. Covay and Carbonaro examined  SES differences in extra curricular involvement and considered their effect on students’ noncognitive skills and achievement outcomes specifically for elementary-school aged students. They decided to focus on noncognitive skills as an instrument to disclose the relationship between extracurricular participation and increased academic achievement. Convay and Carbonaro believed that involvement in extracurricular activities  improved students’ noncognitive skills such as task endurance,  independence, following directions, and working collaboratively. Their results showed that students from higher-SES families do partake in extracurricular activities  more than students from lower-SES families. They also found that race and the portion of minority students within a school are associated  to a student’s likelihood of extracurricular participation. However, when looking at the entire picture involvement in extracurricular activities only reveals a small fragment of the SES advantage in both noncognitive and cognitive skills. Lastly, the relationship between extracurricular involvement on noncognitive and cognitive skills depends on students’ SES.


Teacher, We Can’t See

The illustration shown above was found by performing a google search of the words socioeconomic status and education in unison. This illustration directly correlates with our inquiry question because it displays the relationship between academic achievement and socioeconomic status. The illustration shows a teacher and students within a classroom attempting to solve an mathematical equation. The illustrator made an intelligible statement by creating this image.Upon viewing this image, spectators minds immediately revisit the question of how socioeconomic status influences education. Within the illustration a teacher and students are solving a mathematical equation within a classroom. However, not many math questions are being answered. Academic success is not being achieved because many students in the class are not being granted the same education as their counterparts. The students not be granted equal opportunities are depicted by students sitting in the back of the classroom. The figures of the students being placed in the back of the classroom symbolizes that these students are further away from opportunity. One student who is placed in the back of the classroom is standing on his chair and yelling “teacher, we can’t see!”. The other students in the surrounding vicinity look at him worrisomely. However, their faces also show admiration. The students in the back of the classroom, can not see because there is a large student sitting in front of them. The large student sitting in front of them is wearing a sweater that says poverty. Poverty is one of the factors that influences academic achievement.  The student labeled poverty portrays the  gap of inequality between the privileged and those who do not have the privilege to see the front of the board. The students in the back who can not see the front of board are not reaching their utmost potential. They are not reaching their utmost potential because their opportunities are hindered. Sadly, the teacher depicted in the illustration appears to have no recollection of the issue at hand. The students who are not affected by poverty are granted the opportunity to achieve success whilst the students who are less privileged are not. The illustration should push educators to reflect on the matter of if they are granting all their students with equal access to education. They should also consider if they are not granting their students with equal access because of their own personal biases.