How to Help Students by Helping Their Parents []


We’re all well aware that education leads to better jobs and higher income. Just as important, research also links education to reduced risk of illness, increased vitality, longevity and academic success that extends to future generations.

That’s why the situation for schools in Lawrence, Mass., was particularly concerning back in 2010. At the time, more than one out of every four Lawrence kids dropped out of high school. This led the Massachusetts Department of Education to put Lawrence’s schools into receivership by 2012, placing them under new management to safeguard state assets. The state-appointed “receiver,” was granted authority to develop an intervention plan to overhaul the schools through steps you might expect such as expanding the school day and replacing half the districts’ principals.

But the district also took one critical step by acknowledging that a family’s financial stability strongly influences how well children do in school—and whether they drop out.

This was especially relevant to Lawrence where the poverty rate for children is 39 percent. Poverty is one of the biggest health risks that children face today, predisposing them to a variety of challenges including exposure to environmental hazards (such as lead paint in older houses), difficulty accessing healthy food, and trouble getting to and from doctors’ appointments. The subsequent stress that parents face from being unsure if they’ll make ends meet spills over to kids. This toxic stress derails healthy development and increases the risk for developing chronic diseases in adulthood.

[For more of this story, written by Abbey Cofsky and Kristin Schubert, go to]

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