Equity & Diversity

Poll: Majority of Teachers Say Poverty Is a Barrier to Learning in Their Schools

By Evie Blad — June 09, 2015 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Poverty is a barrier to learning in the classroom, according to a national poll of teachers, who also identified student behavior and a lack of parent engagement as problems in their school.

Of the 700 respondents to the online poll, conducted by Communities in Schools and Public Opinion Strategies, 88 percent described poverty as a minor, moderate, or serious problem in their schools. And 92 percent of respondents saw student apathy, disruptive student behavior, and a lack of parental involvement as problematic, according to the poll, which was released today.

The unweighted results of the poll, administered online in May, identified ways that student poverty affects teachers’ work in the classroom. Here’s a graph that demonstrates how teachers help meet their students non-academic needs.

Shifting Demographics

The poll’s results come months after an analysis by the Southern Education Foundation showed that public schools crossed a new, significant threshold in 2013, when a majority of the nation’s nearly 50 million students qualified for free or reduced-price lunches, a common marker of low household income in schools.

“As we have found with most polls of teachers, they expressed concern about too much testing, student apathy and lack of parental engagement as general problems in schools today,” said Robert Blizzard, a partner at Public Opinion Strategies, in a statement. “But what was striking is that when asked to identify and rank serious problems in their local schools, poverty became a major theme.”

Communities in Schools is an organization that works in schools to coordinate community-based resources, which it calls “coordinated school supports,” for students and their families so that problems at home, like poverty, don’t prevent success in the classroom. In the poll, 62 percent of respondents agreed with the statement that “non‐academic support issues should be primarily handled by dedicated professionals from the community working within the school.” But 22 percent said those issues should be handled by the school with existing resources, and 16 percent were unsure.

You can check out all of the poll results here.


A version of this news article first appeared in the Rules for Engagement blog.