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Tackling Poverty Is Key to Improving Educational Outcomes in DC

Poverty affects children in a number of ways that make it hard for them to succeed in school. Addressing poverty’s impact on children should be a key strategy to improve educational outcomes and close the achievement gap in DC, according to a new series of reports released today by the DC Fiscal Policy Institute (DCFPI). The series, “Unlocking Opportunities: Services that Help Poor Children Succeed in the Classroom,” explores the impact of poverty on education, and what DC schools are doing – and should be doing – to address it. 1

These findings will be discussed at a forum on Thursday, October 9th from 10:30am-12:30pm at the John A. Wilson building (room 120). The forum will feature speakers from the Children’s Law Center, DC Alliance for Youth Advocates and Homeless Children’s Playtime Project as well as the DC Fiscal Policy Institute.

“The District’s approach to boosting student achievement needs to go beyond improving classroom instruction to also address the challenges that poor children bring with them to school” said Soumya Bhat, Education Finance and Policy Analyst at the DC Fiscal Policy Institute. “Providing services in schools that offset the impact of poverty is a key to unlocking opportunities and realizing the potential of all DC children.”

The District offers many programs that help low-income students’helping students with mental health challenges, improving access to primary care, and providing nutritious meals, for example. But there are still gaps. “There are 5,000 DC children who need mental health services but don’t get it” said Jenny Reed, Deputy Director at the DC Fiscal Policy Institute. “And some school social workers and school nurses have caseloads that are too high to allow them to serve all children well.”

School is an ideal location to deliver these types of services. Children are more likely to take advantage of services to improve physical and mental health when they are located in school. For children who are homeless, school offers a place of stability in the midst of turbulence.

The Unlocking Opportunities series includes recommendations to improve, expand, and/or develop services to address areas such as mental health, services for homeless students and expanded learning programs. The reports also include a set of funding and management recommendations to improve the coordination and planning of these services and to improve data collection and program evaluation across school systems, service areas, and programs.


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