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Out-of-School Factors Influence Student Achievement

In a new report David Berliner, Regents Professor of Education at Arizona State University, argues that out-of-school factors related to poverty are the major cause of achievement gaps experienced by students in low-income communities.

Berliner writes, “Because America’s schools are so highly segregated by income, race, and ethnicity, problems related to poverty occur simultaneously, with greater frequency, and act cumulatively in schools serving disadvantaged communities.”

“Efforts to improve educational outcomes in these schools, attempting to drive change through test-based accountability, are thus unlikely to succeed unless accompanied by policies to address the out-of-school factors that negatively affect large numbers of our nations’ students.”

Berliner concludes that “the gaps might shrink more readily if we spend our nation’s precious resources on such strategies as trying to:”

1. Reduce the rate of low birth weight children among African Americans

2. Reduce drug and alcohol abuse

3. Reduce pollutants in U.S. cites and move people away from toxic sites

4. Provide universal and free medical care for all citizens

5. Insure that no one suffers from food insecurity

6. Reduce the rates of family violence in low-income households

7. Improve mental health services among the poor

8. More equitably distribute low-income housing throughout communities

9. Reduce both the mobility and absenteeism rates of children

10. Provide high-quality preschools for all children

11. Provide summer programs for students from low-income homes to reduce summer losses in their academic achievement.

The report, Poverty and Potential: Out-of-School Factors and School Success, was released by the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice.