The nation is entering the 21st century riding on an unprecedented wave of prosperity. Yet, in the midst of these good times, children remain the largest single group of Americans living in poverty.
True, child-poverty rates have been decreasing since 1993. But according to the latest federal estimates, a sizable proportion of American children—16.9 percent of those 18 or younger—are poor. Moreover, the number of children living in “working poor” families grew by an estimated 30 percent during the 1990s.
The fifth and final installment of Education Week‘s series on the demographic forces shaping education in the new century focuses on the persistence of poverty.
One school system that is dealing with stubborn poverty is Wolfe County, Ky. Standing at the northern gateway to the mountains of eastern Kentucky, Wolfe County is among the 50 poorest counties in the United States—just as it was in 1990 and probably decades earlier.
With help from Kentucky’s landmark school improvement law, however, the schools there are beginning to raise students’ test scores. The question now is whether enhanced academic achievement will be the county’s ticket to a place in the “new economy.”
Part 5 of the series includes these stories: