A Multilayered Approach for Addressing Poverty and Education in African American Communities: A Call for Action

A Multilayered Approach for Addressing Poverty and Education in African American Communities: A Call for Action

Rohan James Jowallah
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-1181-7.ch008
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For policymakers to address poverty and education outcomes for African American communities, a multilayered approach is needed at all levels of education, and this support should begin at birth and extend to the first four years of higher learning or two years of apprenticeship within a designated field. Many policymakers will argue regarding the cost; however, it should be noted that the benefits of a multilayered approach to support Black students could lead to various cost-saving measures, which could ultimately close the poverty gap and achievement gap between Blacks in the USA and other groups. This chapter will outline a pathway for addressing poverty and education outcomes for African American communities.
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A significant crisis in the United States today is the prevailing inequality in African Americans’ educational experiences and poverty levels. According to Humphries et al. (2017), “Inequalities in education have existed since the beginning of formal education” (p. 15). Current data demonstrate the magnitude of the crisis. For example, researchers articulate that although African American students have made some gains, they still trail their peers (Humphries et al., 2017). These disparities are recorded early, and inequality has affected lifetime opportunities for African Americans and created a cycle of poverty. According to the PEW Research Center (2016), African American children are, at times, more likely to live in poverty than White children. The nature of poverty rests within the systematic and historical failure of institutions and systems of support to create transformative opportunities for African American children in the United States. Therefore, addressing the poverty and educational outcomes of African American communities requires a multilayered approach.

A multilayered approach is a transformational framework for supporting students and families. This framework builds upon existing systems and resources to support a specific population in need. According to Edwards (2004), a multilayered approach will enhance the lives of children, reduce the barriers to services, and coordinate the support for children and their families. Subsequently, a multilayered approach will require an intentional transformation that should focus on mitigating achievement and discipline inequities and shifting policies and practices (Humphries et al., 2017).

In 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson’s vision of the Head Start program created a new pathway for helping disadvantaged preschool-age children. The program’s designers chose focus areas that would help students develop socially, emotionally, cognitively, and physically (Thomas, 2013). Longitudinal studies and years of comparative research show the Head Start Program remains one of the best-supported programs geared toward improving students’ outcomes (Gill et al., 2001). The program has also influenced global practices and policy transfers in countries such as the United Kingdom (Welshman, 2010). In spite of Head Start’s success, the leaders did not scale the program to provide all children the support they need to acquire the early foundational skills necessary for lifelong learning. For a child to be eligible for the program, his or her parents must be below the federal poverty level or receive certain benefits. Though this is a compelling way to address poverty and quality education in children’s early years, developing the foundation necessary for lifelong learning requires an inclusive approach for all students to have access to programs that will stimulate them, help them, and involve their parents. In reality, a child who completes elementary school and high school without acquiring specific skills will have limited educational opportunities. This limitation impacts his or her job opportunities, thus also hurting his or her lifetime earning potential. In summary, limited opportunities could result in a cycle of poverty, which impacts the overall quality of a child’s entire life.

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