From the Editor: Keys to Success for Low-Income Students

Principal, March/April 2014

It’s not only an urban issue, or a Southern issue. Almost every principal in the nation is thinking about how to level the playing field for low-income students. Or, they will be in the near future.

This is the prediction presented by the Southern Education Foundation’s research report, A New Majority—Low Income Students in the South and Nation, which forecasts that low-income students, who are eligible for free or reduced-price lunch, will soon become the majority of all public school children in the United States. According to the 2013 report, 53 and 50 percent of all public school students in the South and West, respectively, are low-income, followed by 44 percent in the Midwest and 40 percent in the Northeast. And while urban schools report the highest rates of low-income students (60 percent), even in the nation’s suburban schools 40 percent of students are eligible for free or reduced-price lunch. “The future consequences of these trends are likely to severely undercut the American promise of fairness and equity for children in low income households,” write the report’s authors.

While schools are but one link in a chain meant to anchor the nation’s students who live in poverty, principals are uniquely positioned to coordinate supports for students. In the opening article of this issue, principal Ericka Guynes explains how she leverages community partnerships to provide resources for students. The article also features perspectives on poverty from a superintendent, a parent, and a social worker. What is clear from the reflections of these educational stakeholders is that it takes collaboration from an entire school community to even the playing field for students living in poverty.

In their article on overcoming the early learning gap for low-income children, authors Helen Blank and Karen Schulman further reiterate the need for collaboration. They profile two principals who not only work with their own prekindergarten teachers, but also contribute to community-based programs, “set[ting] up effective, developmentally appropriate pre-kindergarten classrooms.” Principals, they argue, should use their influence to advocate for early education “beyond their own schools and communities into the broader national debate about the value of pre-kindergarten investments.”

In addition to collaborating with stakeholders and advocating for early learning, supporting teaching emerged as a significant strategy to address poverty. Regina Stewman, who leads a Title I school in Springdale, Arkansas, offers four strategies to retain high-quality teachers in high-needs schools, who are especially at risk of burning out. Joe Corcoran, author of “Flipping Reading,” also focuses on the power of innovative teaching, presenting a case study of a flipped classroom model that has been successful in his Title I school.

No discussion of improving outcomes for students living in poverty would be complete without addressing student achievement data. Northwest Evaluation Association’s (NWEA), Raymond Yeagley explains five academic growth models, arguing that they “can play a useful and important role in helping to increase student learning.”

In addition to a focus on poverty, the issue also features articles on a range of issues important to school leaders, including response to intervention, family engagement, and English-language learners. Your comments are always welcome, so send me an email to to let me know what you think about the issue.

—Kaylen Tucker


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