Poverty and Potential: Out-of-School Factors and School Success

March 9, 2009

This brief details six out-of-school factors (OSFs) common among the poor that significantly affect the health and learning opportunities of children, and accordingly limit what schools can accomplish on their own: (1) low birth-weight and non-genetic prenatal influences on children; (2) inadequate medical, dental, and vision care, often a result of inadequate or no medical insurance; (3) food insecurity; (4) environmental pollutants; (5) family relations and family stress; and (6) neighborhood characteristics. These OSFs are related to a host of poverty-induced physical, sociological, and psychological problems that children often bring to school, ranging from neurological damage and attention disorders to excessive absenteeism, linguistic underdevelopment, and oppositional behavior. Also discussed is a seventh OSF, extended learning opportunities, such as preschool, after school, and summer school programs that can help to mitigate some of the harm caused by the first six factors.