UTAH (ABC4) — New research out of Brigham Young University finds that children who come from socioeconomically disadvantaged homes face more academic stress. In turn, this stress often causes them to score lower in math and reading than their peers. Advocates hope state lawmakers will turn their attention to funding school districts that serve these students and level out the playing field for all learners.  

In the Ogden School District, about half of all students qualify for free and reduced lunch. Many people are surprised when they learn how many families in their communities live along the poverty line and qualify for this type of assistance.  

“She’s truly a master teacher,” Jeremy Shinoda told ABC4 when describing his son’s teacher. Shinoda’s son is in the third grade and attends school in the Ogden School District. Shinoda holds the teachers in the district in high regard, especially his son’s teacher and her teaching methods. He added, “How she engages the students, how she addresses each one of the student’s learning styles and personalities.”  

While the district may be full of ‘master’ teachers, Shinoda told ABC4 he worries for many students because the district, like many across the state, is underfunded. And many of the students need some additional help.   

“It’s incredibly important in the state of Utah that all of our communities have access to free and equitable education,” Angel Castillo stated. “Specifically, as it pertains to rural communities and urban communities. What affects one affects us all.”  

Angel Castillo sits on the executive committee for the Ogden National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. She explained that the organization will be working with state lawmakers this year to hopefully improve funding to school districts that are in greatest need.  

“Our marginalized populations tend to have the tendency to suffer and it’s not just populations of color,” she stated. “It’s folks who are working-class or poorer.”  

BYU’s research affirms Castillo’s statement. Benjamin Gibbs explained: “Surprisingly, advantaged kids when they worry about how well they do in school, it doesn’t really affect how well they do on math and reading tests. It’s when disadvantaged kids struggle that you see this relationship.”  

Gibbs is an associate professor of sociology at BYU. He’s published new research which focuses on how socioeconomic disadvantages affect 5th graders nationwide. 

“Man, when you’re strapped economically, it’s a luxury to kind of follow along with your kid’s journey and make sure they’re doing alright,” he stated. He emphasized that this is not to say that their parents are bad parents. Rather, when a family is worried about survival, schooling often comes second.  

Gibbs told ABC4 that many of these children may not have the confidence needed to ask their teachers for help. However, when they do, he said, adults should make sure to pay attention. He emphasized that by adding: “It means that kids who struggle and voice that struggle, might need a little more care support than kids than the advantaged kids that probably get it anyway.”     

He suggested that increased funding to schools can help provide some of the resources needed to help these kids and level the playing field. He said teachers who serve in disadvantaged communities also act as social workers and should be adequately compensated for the emotional education they provide to these children along with the regular curriculum.    

Increasing pay for teachers in Ogden, which in turn could increase the quality of education for students, is something Jeremy Shinoda hopes will happen.

“I just can’t wait to see the payoff of increased student achievement,” he stated.