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Detroit Free Press highlights College of Education's annual poverty conference

February 6, 2014

Poverty doesn't have to equate to poor academic performance in today's schools, but that may require a different way of thinking. That was the message dozens of people gathered at Wayne State University heard yesterday morning during the third annual conference on understanding the impact of poverty on education. Carolyn Shields, dean of the College of Education at Wayne State, said educators need to reject what she called "deficit thinking" - the belief that because a child is poor that child can't learn. "Children do not choose to be poor, but they also don't choose to fail or to have fewer opportunities than their peers," Shields said. "But by every measure, education and educators are failing a large number of our children if our schools don't take action now." "Unless we intervene … then our poor and most disadvantaged children will continue to be left behind," Shields said. Participants also heard yesterday from Jacqueline Wilson, the wife of Wayne State University President M. Roy Wilson, who recently created a program to assist homeless students on campus. Wayne State educates a large percentage of students who come from impoverished backgrounds. Some, she said, are homeless. "We don't know the exact amount … but we know there's a need," Wilson said. The goal isn't just about helping the homeless students, though. "I want to make sure there's enough awareness and concern about these students," Wilson said.