Breaking Boundaries: One Line at a Time

Columbia Public Schools reached a conclusion on new boundary lines that will increase the population of students who qualify for free and reduced lunch at both Battle and Hickman, while decreasing the population of students who qualify at Rock Bridge. Battle will increase from 54% to 55%, with Rock Bridge’s population will drop from 22.5% to only 18%. 

The boundaries were redrawn for the opening of a new middle school in Southwest Columbia to alleviate the overcrowded population of students at Gentry Middle School. The district released four options in Dec. 2018, all of which increased the population of students who qualify for free and reduced lunch at Battle.  

The boundary lines have sparked conversations around the community about the effects the boundary lines will have, specifically on Battle. One group in particular is Taskforce, a committee of parents and community members that are brainstorming ideas about resources, administrators and parents will need to ask for. 

Susie Adams, teacher, has been involved in the debate about the boundary lines and believes they could hinder students who need more resources at Battle. 

“Having a high free and reduced lunch means our students need higher resources for these students,” Adams said. “If our students have higher needs and we don’t have the adequate staff or resources to help them, then it handicaps the rest of our students and we are putting a strain on the entire system.” 

While the district has promised to give extra support and resources to administrators to help with the large population of students who will qualify for free and reduced lunch, a measure of poverty, there are many ways it could impact the school as a whole. 

Schools that have a high percentage of students who are impoverished have many risk factors when it comes to students’ ability to learn. One main concern is how it will impact the graduation rates at Battle. The 2014 Census Bureau reports that adolescents in poverty are more likely not to earn a diploma than those above the poverty line.

“Often, poor children live in chaotic, unstable households. They are more likely to come from single-guardian homes, and their parents or caregivers tend to be less emotionally responsive,” Eric Johnson wrote in his book Teaching with Poverty in Mind. “Single-parent households strain resources and correlates directly with poor school attendance, lower grades, and lower chances of attending college.”

In a study performed by New York City Affairs, they concluded that in New York, more than 87,000 students in Kindergarten through fifth grade missed more than a month of school in 2012-2013. Most of those absences were from students that were impoverished.

“Low income children are often left home to fend for themselves and their younger siblings while their caregivers work long hours; compared with their well-off peers, they speed less time playing outdoors and more time watching television and are less likely to participate in after-school activities,” Johnson wrote. 

Another reason students might not meet graduation requirements is because low-income families are less likely to create an environment that cultivates an interest in what their kids are learning or who their teachers are. Johnson noted that many students who live in poverty have families that work multiple jobs to help provide for their family which can cause an absence in their children’s school life. In a 2000 study performed by Health and Human Services, 56% of parents above the poverty line were involved in three or more school activities on a regular basis, while only 36% of low-income parents were involved.

Johnson understands why this might be the case. 

“Parents who did poorly in school themselves may have a negative attitude about their children’s schools and, in an effort to protect them, may even discourage their children from participating,” Johnson wrote. “These parents are often unwilling to get involved in school functions or activities, to contact the school about academic concerns, or to attend parent-teacher conferences.”

Behavioral issues have also raised a concern among community members. Johnson added that behavioral issues among children who grow up in poor living conditions could be spotted as early as age three. 

According to Teaching with Poverty in Mind, to grow up emotionally healthy, children under three need: a caregiver who provides love, guidance and support; safe and stable environments; attunement (helps children develop a wider range of healthy emotions within the first 6-24 months) and enrichmentment through activities. 

“Children raised in poverty are much less likely to have these crucial needs met than their more affluent peers are and, as a result, are subject to some grave consequences,” Johnson wrote. “Deficits in these areas inhibit the production of new brain cells, alter the path of maturation, and rework the healthy neural circuitry in children’s brains, thereby undermining emotional and social development and predisposing them to emotional dysfunction.”

If children stunt brain cells at an early age, adolescents are more likely to not form relationships that are healthy, because they don’t know how to respond in an appropriate way. This means they may react by acting out, blaming others for their mistakes, using violent means towards others, or being very impatient or impulsive. 

While it can go slightly unnoticed at times, there are many impacts poverty has on a school including graduation rates, test scores, and behavior; despite any funding that may be given to a school to alleviate those issues.


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