Poverty is not just a lack of money. It’s a shorthand for a host of other problems—scanty dinners and crumbling housing projects, chronic illnesses, and depressed or angry parents—that can interfere with a child’s ability to learn.
If you think about the community context, you would be able to better understand when students come into the school building, what they are carrying with them,” said Kim Nauer, the education research director of the Center for New York City Affairs at The New School, and an author of the study.
“From a child-development perspective, it’s not status that disadvantages you or advantages you. It’s your experiences … abuse or homelessness. … Some very concrete sets of experiences are more powerful predictors than free and reduced lunch,” Mr. Fantuzzo said. “We have to build capacities that make visible important, mutable variables that we can do something about.”
“Everyone talks about the achievement gap and says, ‘Well, it’s up to the teachers to make these kids smarter.’ But if you look at the risk-load gap, it explains the achievement gap,” said Ms. Nauer of the Center for New York City Affairs. “So then, what do you do? You create a series of things within the classroom environment that are known to be protective or helpful to students who have these risks.”