Publication Date


Document Type

Student Project

First Advisor

Cassady, Zoe

Degree Name

B.S.Ed. (Bachelor of Science in Education)


Department of Curriculum and Instruction (CI)


The Matthew Effect was first developed by sociologist Robert Merton (1968) to describe a phenomenon they observed whereby wealth and credit is distributed to individuals based on the wealth or credit they already possess. Keith Stanovich further developed this theory around poverty and effects on students, their learning, and in particular reading (1986). The name Matthew Effect comes from the Bible book of Matthew chapter 25: verse 29. "For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath." The dynamics of poverty has stricken students from gaining the most out of their education. Poverty impacts education across all levels. The rich get richer while the poor becomes poorer is the dilemma of the Matthew Effect. Affluent schools can afford to feed their students rich materials that will prepare them for success. Poorer communities often suffer from greater financial burdens in many cases causing students to fall into the cracks of an inadequate education.

This project highlights the significance of poverty as it effects students within Chicago Public Schools (CPS). Public Schools receive less funding due to local property, replacement tax and Tax Increment Financing (TIF) surpluses. CPS also receives funding from other local sources sch as philanthropic donations, interest income, lunchroom fees, and school rental fees. State income accounts for 23 percent of CPS revenue. Teachers are funded by allocated funding through the Illinois district Evidence- Based Funding (EBF). The states EBF model allocates each year’s funding through a tiering system that directs new investments within state education funding to districts most in need of resources. According to Chicago Public Schools (CPS), “At the end of the recent state legislative session, the general assembly passed a state budget that include a $350 million increase in EBF funding. As an under resourced district, CPS will see additional state funding in FY2024, and, due to the EBF distribution construct, the additional amount will become the base for CPS’ appropriation in FY2025” (CPS 2023). In most cases, CPS receives funding from grants that contribute towards funding each school district such as: Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) Title I-A-Low Income, Title I-A-IL Empower, Title I-D-Neglected/Delinquent, Title II-A-Improving Teacher Quality, Title III-A Language Acquisition, Title IV-A-Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants, Title IV-B-21st Century Community Learning Centers, Title VII A- Indian Education. As you can see, funding is not an issue for CPS. Inequalities across CPS has nothing to do with funding. The Matthew Effect trickles down to the CPS school districts based on lack of communal resources such as, rehabilitation centers, grocery stores, community centers, gyms/fitness centers, police stations, hospitals, people of stature moving into the community, lawyers, police officers, principals, teachers, administration from CPS to set an standard for children.

Understanding poverty will grant parents, teachers, students, people living in the community, and school administrators a better idea of how poverty is effecting CPS students. Poverty takes on many shapes and sizes, poverty has five forms in which it can manifest itself. Absolute poverty is defined as the inability to meet basic needs such as (food, shelter, etc.) due to the lack of financial resources. A person who lives in absolute poverty does not have access to clean drinking water, nutritious food, and a safe place to live. Conditions in which people cannot afford to actively participate in society and enjoy activities in which most people take for granted is the definition of relative poverty. Most people who suffer from relative poverty lack the access to quality food, which contributes to health problems. Increased mental health are also known to target those who has experienced relative poverty due to stress and lack of support systems. Intergenerational poverty which is a ‘cycle of poverty’. Poverty that occurs when children grow up in families with income that is below the poverty line are themselves poor as adults. In most cases, it is difficult for children to break the chain cycle of poverty.

The Matthew Effect is not only evident due to the lack of money. Lack of money is just one form of poverty. Throwing money to school districts in need will not solve the complex issues of closing the achievement gap, lacking intergenerational knowledge, trauma, and finally the necessity of relationships of mutual respect in learning. Children who attend CPS often deal with the issues listed. Money is only the tip of the iceberg. How can we expect students to fully function if they are not provided with counseling, nutritious meals, and the ability to help their brains develop. According to Ruby Payne, “In a study released in 2008 using EEG scans with poor and middle-class children, the researchers found that the prefrontal cortex of the brain (executive function) in poor children was undeveloped and resembled the brains of adults who have had strokes. The executive function of the brain handles impulse control, planning, and working memory (Kashiyama et al., in press p.1) The researchers went on to state that it is remediable, but there must be direct intervention. So, teaching planning is critical for success in the decontextualized environment of school because it is not taught in the environment of generational poverty. (Payne, 2013, p.16) The federal government, state government, and local government, along with superintendents, administrators, and teachers are aware of these cumbersome issues. Why must our students attending CPS’s suffer from poverty? The issue revolves around the community and the lack of effort one must put into the community to watch it grow. If the soil in which we plant our children is rotten, tainted with drugs, guns, food desserts, lack of hospitals, mental health facilities, and youth organizational groups, how can we truly heal Chicago Public Schools.

It should not be complicated to see why most students drop out of school by the time they are in 7th and 8th grade. There are no support systems aligned to aid and push them into exceeding and pursuing an higher education. In most cases, students lack support teams from their families at home, friends, and communities because their communities are poverty stricken. The ‘cycle of poverty’ continues throughout each neighborhood of the South Side of Chicago. Students must face the fate of racial inequalities, violence, lack of sexual reproductive education, fundamental programs for both parents and youth, along with churches and daycares that are willing to come together to cease homelessness and teens dropping out of school due to inadequate childcare. If there is no one left to care, who else is there to depend on?

This project will focus on tactical solutions that may possibly help CPS districts that surround issues of poverty. Completion of this project will take two months of research. Extensive research on this project will begin in February. I will contact the teachers union to receive information as to how teachers are paid and why so many teachers are upset with their payments. In the month of February, I plan on interviewing my clinical placement teacher to speak on poverty in the neighborhood and within the surrounding community. In the month of March, I plan to speak with my principal from my clinical placement to speak on poverty within CPS and her school district. Poverty not only has a concentration on money but the lack of adults to help students succeed. I plan to speak with the safe passage monitors who works for CPS as well to gather their opinion and suggestions. In the month of April, I plan to synthesize my findings to create a plan that will help CPS based on the information I have gathered from my sources.