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10 - School Environments and the Diverging Pathways of Students Living in Poverty

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  16 September 2009

Penny Hauser-Cram
Professor, Lynch School of Education, Boston College
Marji Erickson Warfield
Social Scientist for the Heller School for Social Policy and Management, Brandeis University
Jennifer Stadler
Regional Director of the Citizen Schools, Boston
Selcuk R. Sirin
Assistant Professor of Applied Psychology, New York University
Aletha C. Huston
University of Texas, Austin
Marika N. Ripke
University of Hawaii, Manoa
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Over the last decade researchers have reported consistently that children differ in their pre-academic skills at the beginning of kindergarten and that those differences are often related to their family's socioeconomic status (SES) and, to a lesser extent, their ethnicity (Lee & Burkam, 2002; Stipek & Ryan, 1997). Our education system should provide the necessary schooling so all children can succeed academically, but there is evidence that the school experiences of children living in poverty differ from those living in middle-income families (e.g., Entwisle & Alexander, 1998; Greenberg, Lengua, Coie, & Pinderhughes, 1999). Yet we know little about the various paths children from low-income families take from the time they enter school through middle childhood. Do children's diverging pathways relate only to their characteristics and skills at school entry or do they also relate to the school environment?


Schools can be characterized in relation to their structure and climate (Ma, 2001). Structural characteristics usually include school size, location, and the socioeconomic status and ethnicity of students served. School climate is the general character of a school and includes collegiality and community, academic standards, and communication between administrators, teachers, students, and parents. Hoy, Hannum, and Tschannen-Moran (1998) posit that “personality is to individual what climate is to organization” (p. 337). Although the relation of structure and climate to student performance has been established in middle and high schools, it has been examined infrequently in elementary schools (Caldas & Bankston, 1997; Ho & Willms, 1996; Ma, 2001).

Developmental Contexts in Middle Childhood
Bridges to Adolescence and Adulthood
, pp. 198 - 216
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2006

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