Poverty in America is not easily defined, nor can its causes be easily explained. It can be experienced by anyone – male or female, as well as people of all ages, racial or ethnic groups, and immigration status. In order to be responsive to the needs of students, educators should consider the constraints that poverty often places on students’ lives and how these factors influence learning and academic achievement. These factors may include students’ health and well-being, literacy and language development, access to physical and material resources, and level of mobility. The resources identified on this page provide background on the influence of poverty on student learning and offers practical suggestions for engaging students with poverty in mind.


Articles, brochures and reports

  • Building a pedagogy of engagement for students in poverty – EdChange (2013) shares a brief synthesis of instructional and relational strategies.
  • Class and Poverty in the U.S.: A Re-Perception Quiz and Answers – This quiz and answer set from EdChange helps shape discussions about class and poverty in the U.S.
  • Could you survive …? quizzes – These quizzes are excerpted from “A Framework for Understanding Poverty: 10 Actions to Educate Students” workbook by Ruby K. Payne. Copyright 2012 aha! Process, Inc. All rights reserved. www.ahaprocess.com
  • Equity Literary Principles for Educators of Students Experiencing Poverty – The Equity Leadership Institute offers a framework for cultivating the knowledge and skills that enable us to be a threat to the existence of inequity in our spheres of influence.
  • Failure is Not an Option – In spite of high poverty, tight budgets, sub-optimal parent participation and ill preparation, there are schools that produce extraordinary students and remarkable stories of success. What makes these schools work so well, and can it be replicated in others? Public Agenda spoke to principals, teachers, students and parents at nine of Ohio’s high-poverty, high-achieving schools.
  • How does poverty influence learning – Edutopia (2016) shows how poverty-related factors intervene in students’ ability to learn include health and well-being, limited literacy and language development, access to material resources and level of mobility. 
  • How do we talk about poverty in schools? – Poverty affects students’ state of mind. Edutopia (2015) explains that educators must be sensitive of the terms commonly used when discussing children and families living in poverty.
  • The Myth of the Culture of Poverty – Paul Gorski (2008) critiques the “culture of poverty” concept — the idea that poor people share monolithic and predictable beliefs, values and behaviors — and steps that educators can take to challenge inequities and provide the highest-quality education for all students.
  • Out of the Loop – Center for Public Education (2018) Rural students and the schools they attend receive little attention in either policy or academia. No one seeks to minimize the problems of rural schools. But, at least from a national perspective, the unique needs of rural education are often obscured by their urban and suburban counterparts. However, such a metropolitan-centric attitude neglects a significant portion of the student population.
  • Reexamining Beliefs about Students in Poverty – Paul Gorski (2016) explains that the greatest need is to strengthen equity literacy.
  • Smarter investment can help ease looming education crisis: Shifting demographics, poverty pose challenges –  A policy and planning analyst from Ohio State University’s Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity (2017) focuses on the crisis of poverty and its impact on the education of children of color.
  • Ten Dynamics of Poverty that Undermine School Success – and What Schools Can Do About Those Barriers – Much discussion centers around the barriers that are created by poverty and those barriers’ impact on school success.However, there are many things schools can do to make a difference in achievement. First published in Leadership Compass, Summer 2009. Reprinted with permission. Copyright 2009. National Association of Elementary School Principals. All rights reserved.
  • Understanding and Working with Students and Adults from Poverty – This article by Dr. Ruby K. Payne (2003) shares a framework to understand and work with students and adults from generational poverty. 
  • Understanding the Environment of Poverty (Having Fewer Resources) Impacts Cognition and Learning – In this essay by Dr. Ruby K. Payne, poverty is defined as the “extent to which one does not have resources.” Resources are tools by which one negotiates his or her environment. Obviously, the more resources you have, the better equipped you are to be successful.
  • What we get wrong about the poverty gap in education – In this Washington Post article (2018), associate professor Mical Raz explains that poor children don’t struggle in school because of their parents; they struggle because of poverty.






Other resources