Why some low-income students don't focus on studies

College Possible founder Jim McCorkle runs the Minnesota-based nonprofit to help low income students get into college. Last night he told Bright Ideas host Stephen Smith how his organization drills into them a fundamental life lesson when it preps them for the ACT.

The students in his program take a full practice test four times -- each time early on a Saturday morning -- over a 20-week period. That's a tough schedule for a lot of teens. But by the end, their scores usually increase by an average of 20 percent.

The lesson? Hard work pays off.

McCorkle tells Smith that linkage often isn't obvious to lower-income students:

"Middle-class people understand clearly the link between working hard and getting a positive outcome. (But) in many families that suffer from multigenerational intense poverty, that connection between hard work and positive outcomes is much less obvious. Oftentimes, in families like that, there's not much evidence that if you just work hard, it'll all work out.

... (Success is) about a resilience that you need to overcome obstacles when they get in your way. Most middle-class people have that. And I think if you come from a low-income family, oftentimes it's harder to have faith that that hard work is going to pay off."

I'll post the full audio/video in a few days when it's logged. You can hear this excerpt in full on MPR's Daily Circuit later today.

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