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Academic Success for Low-Income Students: A Complete Guide for Students, Educators, and Parents

Tygue Luecke

Featuring expert advice from Tygue Luecke, teacher at Oakland International High School

Fast Facts About Low-Income Families and Education Barriers

  • In 2020, the Census Bureau set the poverty level for the 48 contiguous states at an annual income of $26,200 for a family of four.
  • Of the 38.1 million people in the U.S. who lived in poverty in 2018, 11.9 million of those people were children.
  • Black and Indigenous people of color (BIPOC) and other POC are more impacted by poverty due to systemic racism. According to 2018 U.S. Census data, 25.4% of American Indians, 20.8% of Black Americans, and 17.6% of Hispanic Americans lived in poverty.
  • 17% of teenagers report not being able to complete homework because they don’t have digital access.
  • In 2015, 33% of first-generation college students did not complete their degree, compared with 26% of continuing-generation college students.
  • In 2019, parents expected to pay $1,017 for elementary school supplies, $1,277 for middle school supplies, and $1,668 for high school supplies. These costs can exceed the amount of months’ worth of rent for low-income families.
  • The average community college student typically spends over $1,700 on transportation each year.

One of the most stubborn relationships in education research is the link between lower socio-economic background—including low household income—and poorer academic outcomes. Children growing up in low socio-economic status families face more barriers within the U.S. public education system, including underresourced schools, less exposure to reading or pre-reading skills or informational resources, and a complex of factors that lead to higher dropout rates.

This guide provides a comprehensive overview of the challenges lower-income students face at all levels of their education, and solutions for parents, teachers, administrators, and students themselves.

Online Learning: Challenges and Solutions for Low-Income Students 

Online learning holds a lot of great opportunity in that it can offer an adaptable learning environment for educators and students. However, there are some huge challenges for lower-income students to access and participate in online learning. Here we explore the challenges and solutions.

Challenge: The Digital Divide 

Not all students (especially those without the financial means) can afford the computer or other technology essential for high-quality online learning. 

Solutions

With the expansion of e-learning globally recently amid the Covid-19 pandemic, more institutions, schools, and community organizations are helping to fill that gap in technology access. Access to technology depends on your location, but many K-12 school districts are getting closer to ensuring technology access for all students. A first step is to see what schools can offer students without reliable technology. Some schools may have technology or computer loan programs, or funding options to help students afford access to devices like laptops or tablets. They may also help point you to local community-based organizations and other resources that help with technology or funding.

Many colleges and universities are also helping to fill the gap for students who need technology while their computer labs are closed. Some schools are allowing long-term borrowing systems or low-cost purchasing options for computers and other necessary technology.

Additionally, there are a number of national organizations that are helping to bridge the digital divide by donating computers to those who need it. Some examples include Digital Wish, Imagination Initiative Incorporated, PCs for People, and the On It Foundation. This list of organizations by Network for Good highlights several organizations with a similar mission.

Challenge: Wi-Fi Access

Quality internet or broadband connection isn’t possible for every student.

Solutions

Broadband providers have been moving to bring better Wi-Fi access to all parts of the country. Also, federal mandates like the Federal Communications Commission’s Keep Americans Connected Pledge will help keep families connected despite their ability to pay for internet.

However, in the cases where there are still gaps to access to high-quality Wi-Fi, some providers have created hot spots around the country. Find your state’s hot spots here at this continuously updated resource list from Campus Technology

Additionally, educators and nonprofits can help fill the broadband gap through partnerships with organizations that aim to help expand Wi-Fi access to those who need it most. Some national organizations working to expand access to broadband across the nation include NACEPF (North American Catholic Educational Programming Foundation, Inc.), Voqal and their Mobile Citizen project, the National Digital Inclusion Alliance, and the Schools, Health & Libraries Broadband Coalition. Check out these organizations to see if they have resources or funding to help your community expand broadband access.

Challenge: Computer Literacy

Every student has different computer literacy levels and some may need more technical support or it may take them longer to get up to speed on the technology.

Solutions

K-12 schools, colleges, and universities often have internal technology skills support programs. As a first step, look into technology classes or tutorials available to you through your school. Additionally, many local library systems across the country offer digital literacy programs and have high-quality support either through classes or one-one-one tutorials.

There are a number of great free resources for parents, educators, and students at all different levels to develop computer skills for successful online learning. Resources for older students, college students, and parents include Educate & Elevate’s Google Applied Digital Skills program. Schools and educators can connect directly with Google’s distance learning resources. And, Maryville University provides this fairly comprehensive list of resources for younger students to develop basic computer skills.

Challenge: Building Interpersonal Connections

It can be difficult to establish meaningful connections with teachers and classmates through online platforms. This can be even more challenging for students if they are struggling with the coursework.

Solutions

A helpful way to create a continuous connection with teachers is to ask for periodic one-on-one check-ins. Many teachers will already have these in place, so students should take advantage of those opportunities by asking as many questions as they can and keeping in regular contact with their instructors.

Peer-to-peer connections are also important for both learning and creating a sense of belonging. If a student is feeling disconnected from their classmates, they can reach out to see if they would want to form a virtual study group. This is a great way to keep students on track with their work as well as get support from their peers. Beyond the schoolwork, they can also create virtual spaces to connect with their peers outside of academics. Organize a virtual trivia session or play remote video games together.

How Teachers Can Support Low-Income Students 

Low-income students experience unique challenges that are crucial for their teachers to understand. Here we provide insight into those challenges and their solutions.

Challenge: Limited Ability to Buy School Supplies or Class Materials

Every year, teachers give out lists of desired school supplies and/or class materials. Many students or their families don’t have the means to purchase these items, which can create a huge barrier for lower-income students.

Solutions

While planning out materials and supplies lists, teachers should be mindful of the potential financial burden on students. Create a list that may require students to purchase fewer supplies or materials (this Edutopia article has some tips on creating a stock of free classroom supplies). For class materials for secondary and college students, identify ways to incorporate free materials throughout the syllabus in lieu of a textbook. For example, create a syllabus that includes articles that come from free online sources, or books that can be easily accessed through the library.

In the case that students or their families must purchase supplies or materials, teachers may want to have extra supplies and materials on hand. There are a variety of organizations that help teachers fund supply purchases. Some like Donors Choose, Adopt a Classroom, ClassWish, and Digital Wish allow K-12 teachers to crowdsource for classroom materials or technology. Teachers can also apply for various grants specifically for classroom enrichment, such as the NEA Foundation Student Success Grant, Target Field Trip Grants, and the Kids In Need Foundation.

For college-level educators, if there are required textbooks or other hard copy reading materials that might be difficult for some students to purchase, there are a few approaches to take. Begin by working with the institution to see if there are any resources available to students to help with grants to purchase materials. Teachers can also create a partnership with the library to ensure that the books are available and able to be checked out for extended periods of time. Last, teaches can make connections with local bookstores to either purchase books that can be loaned out to those who need it or ask for donations of books.

Challenge: Language Barriers

Many younger students who were raised speaking another language have a great deal of difficulty keeping up with schoolwork in English, their nonnative language.

Solutions

An important strategy is to be creative and mindful of how material is presented. Include visuals, speak slowly, and incorporate language learning throughout curriculum. These articles from the Cult of Pedagogy and Edutopia provide helpful tips in creating supportive learning environments for English Language Learners (ELL).

For additional resources for supporting ELLs in the classroom, check out Colorín Colorado’s resources and this list of resources from Edutopia.

Challenge: Fewer Books and Resources at Home

Because of a lack of financial resources, lower-income homes are less likely to have books and other educational resources at home. This can create a gap in literacy between lower and higher-income students. Additionally, lower-income families might not promote reading at home for a variety of reasons, but often, it wasn’t modeled to them or they have to work multiple jobs and don’t have the time.

Solutions

Teachers of younger children can engage with parents to encourage reading at home, perhaps involving that in the homework practice. For example, encourage parents to take their kids to the library and bring that into weekend assignments. This will help create a reading culture at home.

For the families who can’t afford buying books or materials to have in the home, teachers can help connect them with free book programs, either by applying themself or giving families the information. Also, build up a stock of books to send home with students on a regular basis. Reading Rockets provides a list of free book programs. Also, keep an eye out for books in Little Free Libraries that are becoming increasingly popular in the U.S.

Challenge: Lack of Stability and Limited Support from Family

The financial situations lower-income students face can often have an effect on their home and family life. In many cases, their parents have to work multiple jobs to make ends meet, so their ability to help with homework can be limited. Additionally, if an older student has younger siblings, they’re often tasked with caring for them while their parents work. With all the financial challenges also comes the general lack of stability, which can lead to food instability, frequent moves, and sometimes homelessness. All of this can make keeping up with schoolwork difficult.

Additionally, college students with limited financial support often work to pay for school and their living expenses. This can make it hard for students to complete homework assignments and can also contribute to exhaustion and inability to stay focused in class.

Solutions

Knowing that students come from all different backgrounds, it’s important to create equitable standards to ensure that everyone is keeping pace with the work. What is in the control of K-12 teachers is homework. While there are consistent discussions questioning the effectiveness of homework on academic achievement, there is some consensus around the ineffectiveness of homework being assigned for the sake of having homework. The “10-minute rule” is still commonly thought of as the standard, although not always followed. Research also suggests that you can encourage good study habits while also making homework more interesting by designing creative assignments. These articles from Education World and Planbook provide tips on making sure homework is being used effectively, and Teach Thought has tips on how teachers can be more creative in making assignments.

Teachers can also show their students support by creating strong connections with them. Get to know them, understand their experiences and their family life, and learn how to support them individually. In some cases, this might entail enlisting support from the school counselor or other resources your school offers to those who are struggling. The Inclusion Lab provides some tips on how to create an environment where you’re supporting your students in and out of school.

For college students, the added burden of having to work to pay for school can create greater stress. Higher education educators can also think creatively about assignments and their assessment standards. This American Association of University Professors (AAUP) article gives some helpful tips on how to do that. Additionally, teachers can support their students by getting to know them as a person, as mentioned in this Inside Higher Ed article. Last, become familiar with the on-campus support to refer to students, such as teaching and learning centers and writing centers that are staffed with people there to help with academics.

Challenge: First-Generation College Students

Lower-income college students are often the first in their family—or among the first in their family’s generation—to go to college. Because their parents didn’t have the college experience, there are significant barriers to applying for and completing a college degree. For upper-level high school students, they are less likely to understand both the college application process and financial aid options to pay for it. For first-generation college students, research shows that 33% of those who started postsecondary education didn’t complete their studies (compared to 26% for their continuing-generation peers).

Solutions

Teachers have a huge role to play in encouraging their high school students to go to college. Early on, recognize the potential of your students and reinforce that potential to them consistently. Bring up the idea of postsecondary studies and guide them to the resources that can help them get there. Bring in supports such as the school counselor, help guide them to test preparation resources, and dedicate time to support them in the college search and application processes. The College Board provides some tips for counseling a first-generation college student.

For college teachers, you can start by understanding the additional challenge first-generation college students have. They less likely have family support to help drive them. You can show empathy and encouragement for their work. Beyond personal support, become familiar with campus support resources like the counseling center, academic support centers, and the financial aid office. The Center for First-Generation Student Success (an initiative through NASPA and The Suder Foundation) provides resources and information to help educators ensure their first-generation students complete their degrees.

How School Administrators Can Support Low-Income Students 

Administrators have the unique ability to help lower-income students from a systems perspective. They serve as both a support to the teachers and to the broader school community. Here are some challenges and solutions that administrators can address. 

Challenge: Lack of Access to Extracurriculars

Lower-income schools are less likely to have the funding to offer extracurricular offerings. Usually the first to be cut are art, music, and drama classes. But in many cases, some sports can be eliminated. While these programs may not seem necessary to academics on the surface, they can actually have huge impacts on a student’s success and feelings of belonging at school.

Solutions

For K-12 administrators, the district funding for extracurriculars may not be within their control. However, there are some ways to find funding for extracurriculars. This list from Follett provides a comprehensive list of grants for different types of education activities.

Additionally, local colleges and universities serve as a great resource. Their community service-learning centers create a way to connect with student volunteers who can help lead extracurricular after-school activities. These centers also have great after-school academic programs including America Reads/America Counts (such as this one at the University of Maryland). These programs (in over 1,000 colleges and universities around the U.S.) offer tutoring programs for reading and math by local college students. Some programs also help donate books that students can take home with them.

For college and university administrators, a student’s access (or lack thereof) to extracurricular activities should be taken into account in the recruitment and admissions process. Higher-income students will have much greater access to extracurricular activities including leadership roles. If a school bases admissions heavily on extracurriculars or community service, this could put lower-income students at a greater disadvantage.

Additionally, administrators should consider financial burdens in lower-income students’ participation in college extracurricular activities. Many clubs or activities come with an additional cost on top of tuition and living expenses. Create funds to help students participate in those activities like studying abroad. This type of support can also help with retention because those outside-of-class activities help students foster a greater sense of belonging on campus.

Challenge: Less Access to Higher Education and Lower College Graduation Rates

There are a lot of reasons that higher education is out of reach for lower-income students. One huge reason is the rising cost of tuition. While scholarships and financial aid are available, most students are graduating from college with significant student loan debt.

Another reason higher education feels out of reach for students is that many of their parents didn’t attend college. With that, they don’t have the expectation to be on the path to college, which then makes completing their degree feel daunting and insurmountable.

Solutions

Regarding the affordability challenge on the high school end, administrators can set up support structures within their schools to help students identify the right postsecondary pathway for them. School counselors and other resource staff can offer services or workshops that help students look for schools, complete their applications, and apply for financial aid.  

College administrators can also think creatively about supporting lower-income students financially. The Jack Kent Cook Foundation published a report on this topic identifying strategies such as emergency aid programs, providing clear and accurate information to students regarding costs, and not reducing institutional aid if students receive private scholarships. Such measures ensure that students are supported throughout the entirety of their education, making it more likely that they’ll graduate with their degree.

High schools and colleges can also work together to create a pipeline. High school administration can bring in resources and people from the local colleges to provide mentorship around college application processes. Additionally, admin can organize field trips to local colleges to introduce students to the college environment. This American Youth Policy Forum article highlights how the Community College of Baltimore County (CCBC) is actively creating a pipeline between the college and Baltimore city schools as a great source of tips and information.

Challenge: High Teacher Turnover

Teacher turnover is a huge challenge in lower-income schools where studies have shown that teachers are more likely to leave the schools in urban and rural schools than wealthier suburban schools.

Solutions

Because much of the turnover is due to what is described as “school climate”/working conditions, lower pay, and lack of professional development opportunities, these are areas administrators can concentrate on. To tackle these challenges, the National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future includes recommendations from this policy brief including: investing in well-prepared teachers, creating strong onboarding training programs, and creating a supportive learning environment with peer-to-peer mentorship between new and experienced teachers.

Regarding professional development, you can also invest in ongoing learning opportunities both on-site and funding for off-site trainings. But also be flexible, open, and think creatively about what constitutes ideal professional development for teachers. This Cult of Pedagogy article gives a great overview of the array of professional development opportunities out there. By letting them take charge of their own learning, teachers will be empowered to stay and grow exponentially in their work.

The Learning Policy Institute and Teach Plus are also great informational resources on research and recommendations for administrators.

Challenges and Solutions for Parents/Guardians of Low-Income Students 

There can be many financial challenges for sending your kids to school, even in a public-school setting. Here we discuss some challenges and potential solutions for overcoming them.

Challenge: Affording School Lunch 

Affording a nutritious school lunch is a challenge millions of families around the country struggle with. It’s a huge form of stress for parents and their kids.

Solutions

Parents have ample resources to lessen the worry of feeding their kids at school. The National School Lunch Program offers millions of kids free and reduced-priced lunches. In 2019, the program fed over 29 million kids through the program. Additionally, the USDA offers a variety of other nutrition-focused programs, including the School Breakfast Program. Eligibility for the program depends on your income; you can find updated guidelines at the USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service site here. Your child’s school will have application materials for the program. If you receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), your child is automatically eligible for the program.

Challenge: Inability to Help with Homework or Access Tutors

Busy parents/guardians with demanding or multiple jobs often find it difficult to help their kids with homework in the evenings, which can be a consistent form of stress. Additionally, without the financial ability to hire tutors, it can be difficult to help your child supplement their education through tutors in subject areas they’re struggling in.

Solutions

Parents can begin by looking into their child’s school’s after-school opportunities. Many schools offer tutoring services for kids after school as a means to help them complete their homework before going home. Many K-12 schools have partnerships with colleges and universities where volunteer college students staff these programs.

Additionally, look into opportunities through local nonprofit organizations for mentorship and tutoring. Some national organizations with local chapters include the Boys and Girls Club of America, Learn To Be Foundation, and the Khan Academy. Beyond these national programs, look at local nonprofits that offer such mentoring and tutoring opportunities. Some of these programs also offer transportation from school so that you don’t have to worry about leaving work to get them to the programs.

Challenge: Lack of Understanding about College and Application Process

The college application process is daunting. And then you have to figure out how to pay for it. If you haven’t gone to college yourself, it can take a lot of time and resources to figure out how to get your child to that step.

Solutions

Parents and guardians can start by seeking out the resources at their child’s school that help support them through the college application process. School counselors are a great resource because they can work one-on-one with students to help identify not only what postsecondary pathway works best for them, but also to help guide them through the application and financial aid process.

Campus visits can be expensive, but luckily, there are a lot of great virtual options to check out a school. For example, there are virtual campus tours. Check with the prospective schools to see if they offer those, or look into the offerings at eCampusTours.com. Find the local college fairs that are happening in your community and bring your child there. If that’s not an option, College Week Live offers online college fairs.

Last, tap into local resources for parent education programs. Oftentimes, schools and nonprofits (such as the ones that offer mentoring support listed above) offer opportunities for parents to learn more about college application processes and financial aid. Those resources also extend into when your child is already in college. The parent education programs can help you identify ways to support your child throughout their college experience.

Challenges and Solutions for College Students 

Going to college can be an expensive endeavor, which can make the day to day challenging. Here we explore some solutions to overcome those challenges.

Challenge: Can’t Afford Textbooks

Textbooks can be expensive. While not every class requires an expensive book, some (especially science and math courses) do, and it can be difficult to purchase those.

Solutions

Most school bookstores offer textbook trading options where students can trade in their old books for some cash. This program also means there are used textbooks available for a fraction of the price for brand-new books. However, there are some cases when instructors require the most recent edition. You might want to check if older, less-expensive editions could work, as sometimes changes between editions are minimal. Your school library is also a huge asset. Many offer opportunities to rent textbooks rather than purchase or check out for long-term loans.

Because students can’t always avoid paying hefty prices for books, there are a variety of scholarship programs that assist students with textbooks. Check with your school first to see if they have any internal assistance program. You can find a list of other such scholarships at CollegeScholarships.org. Additionally, Project Gutenberg offers a variety of e-books for free.

Challenge: Affording Both Tuition and Living Costs

While tuition costs can be alleviated through your financial aid, there’s still the added burden of living costs. Living on campus can also be cost-prohibitive.

Solutions

Along with grants for tuition, there are also a number of grants to help with living expenses. Learn more about those opportunities in these articles by CollegeFinance and CollegeScholarships.org.

Federal work-study programs are also a really great way to earn an income while also reducing college tuition. When a student qualifies for the program at school (through the federal financial aid application), you can apply for part-time jobs through their university. These jobs aren’t just limited to on-campus positions. Some schools have relationships with companies or nonprofit organizations where students can be paid for internship-like work. This is a great way to earn an income while also applying your skills to your desired field.

Good budgeting and money management skills will also go a long way to ensure students are able to pay for living expenses. This STILT article offers some great tips including tapping into student discounts and being creative about meal planning.

If you find yourself in a dire situation, look into your school’s emergency funds. This NerdWallet story provides an overview of your options.

Challenge: Lack of Reliable Transportation

If a student lives off campus, not having reliable transportation to school can be a huge burden. And it can be expensive as the average full-time community college student spends over $1,700 per year on transportation alone.

Solutions

Students should make sure they take full advantage of their school’s transportation resources. Many schools offer public transportation discounts. If a school doesn’t offer a transportation discount program, the city or metro area the college is in might offer special student discount programs.

If given the choice of where to live off campus, research affordable neighborhoods that have reliable public transportation to ensure you have quick access to get to campus.

Challenge: High Levels of Stress

Most students deal with some level of stress related to their schoolwork, but financial stress adds a huge layer of anxiety that can make every day a challenge.

Solutions

Students affected by this issue should tap into their school’s resources. College counseling centers can offer affordable or free counseling sessions to help process and manage stress. Counselors can also work with students to help identify additional resources. Campus teaching and learning centers can also give students the support to help them thrive academically. College is a huge culture shift even for students who have received ample preparation. These academic support services provide guidance on how to adapt, fill in skills gaps through workshops or tutoring, and provide tools (such as technology or resource support).Get involved with extracurricular activities. Activities outside of school or home life can help both with creating deeper connections with fellow students and provide a way to de-stress. These activities can range from intramural sports, outdoor engagement, clubs or interest groups, or service-learning. Find out what is available to through your school’s student affairs or student activities office. And if you’re interested in an activity that requires some cost (e.g. outdoor clubs), see if there’s financial assistance to ensure you can participate.

Interview With Tygue Luecke on How Teachers Can Help Low-Income Students

Tygue Luecke

Tygue graduated from UCLA in 2010 with a B.A. in English and from UC Berkeley in 2015 with an M.A. in education. He taught ELD and English language arts for a total of 11 years, both in Japan and the San Francisco Bay Area. As a teacher, he dedicated himself to promoting educational justice for traditionally underserved communities including immigrant and LGBTQ+ youth. During his six years at Oakland International High School, he also advised the school’s chapter of the Gender and Sexuality Alliance (GSA) to create community and build safe spaces for LGBTQ+-identified students and staff. He currently writes and edits for multiple online sources and designs fashions and costumes in his spare time.

Coming from a low-income household will likely look different from student to student, but there are a few concerns that teachers can look out for.

If a teacher knows their student’s family struggles with income, one overarching issue to keep in mind is social stigma. While it is highly encouraged for teachers and schools to do what they can to help out their low-income students, they should always do so in a way that avoids singling out a student publicly. These students may already struggle socially or emotionally due to factors related to coming from a low-income household, and it is advised that teachers and school staff consider this when offering help to students. With this in mind, there are a few major concerns teachers can consider.

One concern which public schools already work to address to some degree is food insecurity. Students may already be on a free or reduced-cost lunch program to make sure they are nourished during school hours, but most schools do little to address food insecurity at students’ homes after hours.

If a teacher notices that a student repeatedly reports being hungry, or that they show signs of fatigue, lack of focus, or excessive irritability, the student may be facing food insecurity at home. In this case, it is a good idea for the teacher to have a one-on-one chat with the student and ask if they are getting enough to eat at home. If the student says that their food needs aren’t always met, the teacher can help the student and/or their family locate the nearest food bank. However, it is ultimately up to the student and their family to access those services.

Department or team case management of students is also a great opportunity to discuss food insecurity. If a department or team of teachers realizes that they have multiple students facing food insecurity, they should bring this issue up with their administration or leadership team. The school’s administrative team may be able to set up regular visits from food banks for families to pick up food after school.

If there aren’t enough students to make this a viable option though, administrators can also organize robo-calls to families with students on free or reduced-cost lunch programs containing information about local food banks or other resources that may be of benefit to the families. The more support a school can provide its students from a structural or programmatic level, the less teachers will have on their already overfilled plates.

Another major issue to keep in mind for students from low-income families is the amount of responsibilities they may have at home. While many students may have homework, extracurricular activities, and/or chores after school, students from low-income families may also have additional responsibilities beyond those of their peers.

This is the greatest concern for students in middle and high school, though even some students in elementary school may have to complete tasks at home to help their families thrive. For example, students may have to cook for their families or care for younger siblings while their parents work. If they drive, they may be responsible for picking these siblings up from school and taking them to activities or appointments.

Additionally, students from low-income households in which the home language is not English may have to serve as interpreters for their parents or family members. This kind of responsibility may require that the student spend numerous hours at medical or legal appointments or hours at home helping their family members understand important documents. Furthermore, a student of working age may bear heavy financial responsibilities for their families. They may have to work after or even before school hours to help pay for their family’s rent or food costs, or to send money to family members abroad.

Of course, all of these responsibilities can have a significant impact on the amount of time a student has to complete homework. If a teacher knows they have many students from low-income families in their classes, they should keep this in mind as they plan their curriculum, making sure to only assign homework when they know it is necessary to a student’s learning.

A teacher should also consider why they are giving homework. If the main function of the homework is to help the student build strong work habits, then it needn’t be excessively long. If it is more for practicing skills learned in class, the teacher should keep in mind quality over quantity. If, for instance, a student can maintain and develop their skills by completing ten targeted exercises on the unit’s learning objectives, then there is no need to assign thirty.

Should a teacher only have a few students in their class with particularly heavy responsibilities at home, flexibility is key. In this case, it is advised that they discuss home responsibilities during family conferences or regular check-ins with the student. If it is possible, a teacher and student may even make an alternative deadline contract to ensure that the student can complete work when they have time. A student who works long hours two or three days a week may fail to meet deadlines if they are assigned daily homework, but they may be able to complete all their work by weekly deadlines if that is pre-arranged with the teacher. In the end, this kind of flexibility can help the student remain academically engaged and possibly keep them from becoming discouraged by failing grades.

Furthermore, students from low-income households may have limited access to technology. Nowadays, many students have smartphones, laptops, or desktops, but it should not be assumed that all students are capable of completing digital work on a regular basis. Some students may have smartphones but no Internet or computer access at home, and while it is possible for them to complete some work on their phones, it can be extremely difficult. A student who uses a smartphone to type an essay, for example, is much less able to spot spelling, grammar, or formatting errors in their work. They may also be less able to complete projects without help from someone with more access to technology.

Many schools have computer labs for students to access when needed, but it is also important to keep in mind that, due to home or work responsibilities, students may not be able to stay long after school to use those computer labs. For this reason, access to technology should be brought up at all family conferences for a teacher to understand how their expectations for a student aligns with the student’s ability to meet those expectations and their family’s ability to support. Some phone companies offer free or low-cost Internet services with proof of low income, so if a teacher knows a student struggles with access, they may look up if such offers exist in their area and relay their findings to students and families.

Lastly (though this is by no means an exhaustive exploration of all of the issues a student coming from a low-income household may face), students may struggle with transportation to and from school if they come from a low-income household. If the student’s family has no car or if family members have to be at work when the student needs to get to school, and the school district doesn’t offer a bus option (or an affordable one), the student may have to rely on public transportation. Though this may get the student to and from school, it might not do so on time.

In many cities, public transportation tends to be irregular and off schedule. Though smartphone applications exist to give predictions of local bus and train arrival times, they can be faulty. If a student relies on public transportation, it is important for the teacher to remain flexible and understanding. If a large number of students face this issue, it may require that the teacher restructure their lesson plans so that the most vital information won’t be missed if students arrive late in the morning.

Now, if a student’s tardiness is severe and consistent and is causing serious detriment to the student’s learning, a little forgiveness and curricular wiggle room won’t be enough. In this case, it is essential to talk to the student and their family to discuss ways to support the student’s attendance.

For families with parents or guardians who work long or odd hours, the student’s primary caregiver might not even be aware how late a student arrives or with what frequency, and discussing it may lead to a quick solution. Sometimes, it may be the case that the student just needs to wake up earlier so as to avoid relying on the one bus or train that will get them to school on time. In other cases though, there may be issues of safety or logistical complications that aren’t so easy to address. Talking to a family may reveal that schedules need to be rearranged or carpools need to be set up so that their child may be able to safely and regularly arrive at school on time.