Low-income students with some of the top test scores are missing from some of the best schools in the nation. Many of them opt to remain in local communities because of a number of factors such as finances, and familiarity. Mounting local effort to support high-achieving students in low-income communities is the work that both elected and appointed officials must do if they are to inspire economic development.
Boston, New York and Los Angeles have something in common. When selective schools are looking forward to tapping into the brain trust of high achieving low-income students, they aggressively pursue students living there. The challenge is, rural communities also have high achieving low-income students who may not make the cut of the pursuit not only because of where they live, but also because of the effort it would take to try to recruit from small school systems. It’s an issue of economics and placement of scarce resources. However, there are other tools to be used to help meet the need.
With a thrust to attract low-income students, school counselors in low wealth school districts play a vital role. Their job is to make the student aware of the opportunity and encourage it as well. Valuing the best education possible; talking with parents and the student about reaching out to selective schools for assistance, bridges the distance between the student applying or not applying.
Rural culture is unique. Preferences to remain local and in proximity to familiarity is a primary driver. Support systems are also significant. Their need to feel a sense of security overrides the need for them to pursue educational advances that reach far beyond the communities in which they have come to rely on for support. Both a need to feel the familiar and the supportive as well as achieving academically must be pursued. Making needed resources available for the student to make good educational choices is what rural low wealth school districts must do.
Affordability and accessibility are of course issues that have to be addressed. Understood is that the cost for inviting a low-income student to participate in the life of the most selective schools is costly and everyone needs to cover their assets. However, they are worth the investment. Every child should be given the opportunity to exhaust their educational potential. Ability to pay should not be the reason kids that want to continue learning, cannot. Poverty and intelligence have more in common than one would think. Strong academic backgrounds should be a prompt that a child has the potential to master more information and as a result, be a contributor to both the family and the community in which they live.
Recruiters to selective schools are not coming our way, but we can lessen the distance by starting a local journey. College counselors are the key. They can take the mystery out of the opportunity and provide pretty smooth sailing from the application to the acceptance phase. If they do not, the rigors of the application process will cripple the efforts of families and inevitably become a wedge between the opportunity and its successful outcome. Families will simply give up on the unfamiliar, finding themselves ill-equipped to navigate a terrain with no familiarity.
Low-income students with some of the top test scores are missing from schools that are not local. It is time the gaps be lessened by introducing them to the rigors of academic life that reaches beyond the communities in which they live. Such a commitment, translates into future economics that will move them out of a place of poverty into a life that flourishes and hopefully, flows back into the communities in which they once lived.