The purpose of the current study is to explore the factors affecting academic achievement in students from low socioeconomic status backgrounds. More specifically, the study will explore past studies linked to students, their family characteristics, poverty, school factors, and their academic outcomes. However, the central topic of concern is poverty or low socioeconomic status. Poverty has been defined variously by different authors. For the current review, poverty is defined as financial and material deprivation (Hilferty, Redmond, & Katz, 2010). The current topic is important to educational stakeholders because it helps them to address the problem of students' under-achievement that is common in poverty stricken families and under resourced schools.
Past studies have reported that students from high socioeconomic status background show better academic performance than their counterparts from the poverty-stricken background. Additionally, the negative impact of poverty on students' academic achievement is further exacerbated by parental illiteracy. This is because uneducated parents do not follow up on their children's school progress. The impact of poverty on academic performance can also be seen in the socioeconomic status of the schools. In schools endowed with financial and material resources, the students' performance is higher compared to schools with the inadequacy of these resources. This problem is more pronounced in neighborhoods with a high level of poverty and under-resourced schools than in wealthy neighborhoods.
Homelessness and School Outcomes
One of the indicators that have been used to assess whether or not poverty is detrimental to learners' outcomes is the concept of homelessness. The concept of homelessness (Murphy & Tobin, 2011; Moore & McArthur, 2011) and its impacts on children outcomes is a significant issue in Australia. Homeless adolescents have been identified as a small proportion of the Australian population but one that warrants special attention at school (Murphy & Tobin, 2011). Specifically, Moore and McArthur (2011) noted that the most affected population include children and their parents and the indigenous people. Similarly, Murphy and Tobin (2011) agree that homelessness in a rising problem. Murphy and Tobin (2011) described the homeless adolescents as those separated from their parents or guardians and are not found in families or institutional setting. According to Murphy and Tobin (2011), homelessness leads to adverse physical, emotional, and social impacts on the affected individual. Moore and McArthur (2011) reported emotional consequences (such as anxiety and stress) and social isolation in homeless children.
The physical, emotional, and social impacts (Murphy & Tobin, 2011; Moore & McArthur, 2011) of homelessness have been reported to have the adverse effects on the educational outcomes on the affected children. Some of these effects include disruption of learning because of transfers from one school to another, loss of time, absenteeism, learning disabilities, and poor quality grades (Murphy & Tobin, 2011). Moore and McArthur (2011) have also reported increased mobility, truancy, falling behind of students, and increased drop-outs. Despite the negative impacts of homelessness on children's academic outcomes, both Murphy and Tobin (2011) and Moore and McArthur (2011) studies have reported that schools can help homeless students to meet their educational goals. At the school level, support and promotion of learning among the homeless students can be achieved through increased awareness of their challenges, provision of basic needs, provision of tailored instructional programs, increased support services, and collaboration with organizations and agencies outside the school (Murphy & Tobin, 2011). On the other hand, Moore and McArthur (2011) advocated for the development of school programs to alleviate social, language and emotional developmental impairments associated with homelessness.
Another factor that is closely related to homelessness is the concept of immigration (Suarez-Orozco, Darbes, Dias, & Sutin, 2011). Suarez-Orozco et al. (2011) explained that schools in immigrant host nations have difficulty educating a large population of students who do not fit to the education system of the host countries. Immigrant students are less likely to attain performance that is comparable to that of the native students due to language and cultural barriers. Other factors associated with poor academic outcomes in immigrant children include inequality and poverty associated with racialization and immigration.
Poverty and Students' Academic Outcomes
Another important concept associated with students' academic achievement is poverty. A review of the literature shows mixed findings regarding the impact of poverty on students' academic outcomes. A literature review conducted by McCormick (2008) established that poverty does not always lead to poor academic achievement in students. In this review, McCormick (2008) found out that schools found in high-poverty areas were also capable of high performance. Some of the characteristics of high performing schools in high-poverty areas include the presence of clear expectations, support services and structures, SMART goals that are implemented, collaboration, commitment of teachers, involvement of parents in school activities, positive school culture, effective principals, focus on standards, and focus on teaching and learning and student mastery. On the contrary, Perry and McConney (2013) found out that increased individual student socioeconomic status and increased school socioeconomic status are associated with students' academic achievement in reading and mathematics.
Unlike in McCormick (2008) study, Perry and McConney (2013) findings suggest that students and schools in high poverty areas are more likely to show low academic performance. More specifically, Perry and McConney (2013) found out that the reading literacy difference between Canadian students from low and high socioeconomic status backgrounds who were both attending high socioeconomic status high schools was 69.9 score points. Reading literacy gaps were also found in Canadian students from low and high socioeconomic status backgrounds who were attending middle socioeconomic status schools and low socioeconomic status schools. Similar findings were also reported in Australian schools. Additionally, for both Canada and Australia, school socioeconomic status affected students' academic performance. Specifically, students from low socioeconomic status background and attending low socioeconomic status schools showed lower performance than their counterparts of low socioeconomic status but attending high socioeconomic status schools. Similarly, students from high socioeconomic status background and attending low socioeconomic status schools reported lower academic performance than their counterparts from high socioeconomic status schools.
Humble and Dixon (2017) findings regarding the impact of poverty on academic achievements seem to disagree with those reported by Perry and McConney (2013). In Humble and Dixon's (2017) study, learners' academic achievement was not affected by family background, socio-economic status, or wealth. More specifically, the researchers did not establish any relationship or any negative relationship between academic performance and family wealth factors such as income. This implies that performance is not associated with family income but the quality of home life and time devoted by the parents to their children. On the other hand, McKinney (2014) does not concur with Humble and Dixon's (2017) regarding the impact of poverty on academic performance. Specifically, McKinney (2014) reported that increased educational expenditure leads to higher academic achievement in students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds. Additionally, the author reported that strong parenting characterized by a secure and stable family background that is conducive to learning is associated with higher academic achievement. Based on findings from past studies, McKinney (2014) reported that improving quality of teachers and teaching could lead to improved academic achievement in disadvantaged children.
Another factor associated with poverty and poor academic outcomes is immigration (Rowe & Windle, 2012). The authors noted that the immigrant population has higher levels of poverty and inequality which leads to social stratification. This implies that Australian immigrants are not integrated into the Australian society and lack equal access to resources as advocated as espoused by modern and liberal host nations. Poor academic outcomes among Australian immigrant children is linked to disorientation, disruption, and anomie that characterizes transfer from one school to another.
Poverty, Readiness to Learn, and Students' Engagement
Apart from academic performance, the impact of poverty on students' outcomes can be seen in their readiness to learn. According to Hilferty et al. (2010), children who are brought up in poverty have limited learning opportunities. The authors explained that the effect of poverty on children's readiness to learn is not direct but is mediated by the environment in which the child is developing. These contextual factors include financial and material deprivation which can lead to increased anxiety and depression in parents. Increased anxiety and depression was linked to hostile parenting and decreased parent-child interaction. Consequently, parents read to their parents irregularly thus adversely affecting their readiness to learn. Additionally, poverty-stricken parents do not afford learning-stimulating materials such as quality schooling. However, the Hilferty et al. (2010) noted that early intervention programs could help reverse children's developmental delays in reading. Some of these programs include equity programs aimed at providing the disadvantaged children additional education and funding as well as discounts on educational materials such as uniforms (Hilferty et al., 2010).
The impact of poverty on students' participation is also a common theme in the literature (Black, 2010; Allen et al., 2018). According to Allen et al. (2010), students' disengagement from academic activities and dropouts is linked to poor attitudes towards education, family dysfunction, and prolonged unemployment. Additionally, lack of engagement in education was associated with financial barriers or socio-economic challenges. Students from poor socioeconomic status families and neighborhoods disengagement were also linked to poor quality of teaching and lack of academic rigor in their schools. Moreover, inadequate level of engagement among poverty-stricken students was linked to poor training of teachers in literacy and numeracy teaching techniques as well as in strategies needed to manage students' behaviors (Allen et al., 2010).
Similarly, Black (2010) reported that the economically disadvantaged youth are less likely to participate in social activities and are at a higher risk of social exclusion due to their little civic knowledge than their counterparts from affluent backgrounds. Consequently, they are less likely to engage in voluntary activities, less likely to participate in community activities, and are not likely to trust civil and political structure of their country. However, Black (2010) noted that schools have an important role in assisting youth from economically disadvantaged backgrounds to acquire the skills needed for civic participation. In order to accomplish this goal, Australian schools are legally required to allow youth from disadvantaged economic backgrounds to take an active role in their local communities. However, Black (2...
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