In Suburban L.A., a ‘Quieter’ Form of Poverty Undermines Academic Success

The Los Angeles Times has debuted a four-part series examining poverty among students in the Los Angeles Unified School District, the nation’s second largest public K-12 education system. So far, the exposé is as heartbreaking as it is gripping.

As Times writer Steve Lopez notes, 80% of LAUSD students are disadvantaged enough to qualify for free or reduced-price meals. At the school Lopez explores in his first installment, Telfair Elementary in Pacoima, nearly a quarter of all children were listed as homeless last year.

But Lopez shines the light on a ‘quieter’ form of poverty impacting kids which, while less visible than skid row-type squalor, makes the necessary tasks of getting to school on time, staying focused, turning in homework, and getting good grades a near Herculean task. Many of these students are moving from crowded home to crowded home or motel to motel on a weekly or monthly basis. They have no privacy, no quiet space for study, and often no reliable transportation.

“At Telfair, I asked to see the breakdown on the school’s 182 students who did not have homes of their own,” Lopez writes. “Fifty-four percent lived ‘in another family’s house or apartment.’ Thirty-one percent lived in rented garages. Eight percent lived in motels, shelters, vehicles or campsites. Another 7% had unspecified ‘other’ arrangements.”

Needless to say, it’s difficult to imagine such a lifestyle not taking a toll on academic performance.

You can read the entire article here