Teaching with Poverty in Mind

CES offers open-enrollment and site-based professional development, as well as technical assistance in this area to educators, schools and districts. We also offer the LEAP Training of Trainers for those currently employed by a Massachusetts educational collaborative

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Thinking Differently About Students in Poverty

Our Approach

Young people living in long-term poverty demonstrate challenges and difficulties related to thinking skills, language and literacy development, social-emotional development, and behavioral wellness. Districts and schools wanting to build internal capacity to improve student outcomes and close opportunity gaps at the classroom, grade, school and district levels can leverage content and strategies for students in poverty and other groups of learners experiencing persistent opportunity gaps; emphasizing inclusive practice, social-emotional learning, school and classroom culture, and family engagement.


Based on our work with the Leading Educational Access Project (LEAP), CES offers trained presenters and facilitators for this work, and content that will introduce the resources offered by LEAP, including understanding the impact of poverty on identification, placement and student outcomes; and access to resources, strategies and best practices for instruction. (Please note that while low-income student populations include those living in poverty, not all low-income students live at the poverty level.)

Group of young children sitting on the floor looking towards someone. One child is clapping.


LEAP Training of Trainers

DESE’s Leading Educational Access Project embraces access and equity for English learners (ELs) and students of color in addition to students living in low-income and  students with disabilities, and the project created a cadre of trained educator-leaders across the state. The LEAP Training-of-Trainers (ToT) Program was first offered in 2016, and members from 12 educational collaboratives participated in this first-cohort training. This statewide cadre of trainers is available to support all districts, regardless of a district’s regional affiliation. Trainers are equipped to bring qualified training and consultative services to schools and districts and can bring access to resources and best practices to support district efforts. CES offers the LEAP Training of Trainers.

Customized Professional Development

We offer a range of tailored professional development and team and individualized coaching on the impact of poverty. Some of the topics that can be adapted include:

  • Approaches to poverty and racial diversity in schools; Impact of poverty on learning
  • Basic physiology of memory, emotion, and learning; brain and learning principles
  • Special Education: Disproportionality, identification & assessments, student support, placement, least-restrictive
  • Special populations: Homeless and transient, English learners, traumatized learners
  • The intersection of race, bias and poverty
  • School and classroom culture that supports students living in poverty

Thank you for your tireless work to make this class so relevant and informative for us. Your passion, knowledge, and willingness to “show yourself” made this class memorable. I am fascinated by what I learned about the brain and human nature. I definitely have a better understanding of the students and families I work with. We will take what we learned back to our school and everyone will benefit from it.

— Poverty Training Participant, Alaska

Impact of Poverty Consulting Team

Albert Johnson-Mussad, Ph.D.

Dr. Johnson-Mussad serves as a staff consultant in leadership and instruction at the Collaborative for Educational Services. He travels nationally to facilitate professional development for school leaders, teachers and other licensed educators in instructional leadership; English learner education; world language and bilingual education; adolescent literacy education; improving outcomes for students in poverty; and social-emotional learning. In addition to professional development, he provides individualized leadership and instructional coaching, curriculum development and strategic planning, and educational program evaluation.

Johnson-Mussad is a seasoned K-12 teacher and curriculum leader who has worked with central office and school-based administrators to increase achievement for both striving learners [or less ready learners] and gifted and talented [more ready] learners. He has taught K-12 English learners and high school Spanish. Albert served as an assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction, and also in the role of elementary school principal. He has been helping K-12 writers who are English learners, including EL’s with disabilities, to communicate personally compelling meaning for 30 years. He is the middle son of immigrants from Egypt, and a heritage speaker of English who also speaks Spanish and some Arabic.

Learn more about:

Dr. Johnson-Mussad is currently serving a 3-year term on Massachusetts DESE’s Gifted and Talented Advisory Council.

His publications include:

  • Responsive Collaboration for IEP and 504 Teams, book. Co-authored 2022, Corwin.
  • Instructional Techniques including Artists in Residence, Pair Shuffle, Who goes there? in New ways in Teaching English at the Secondary Level, Deborah Short. 1999, VA: TESOL

Among his recent conference presentations are Teaching Writers Learning English or Who Have IEPs, presented at the 2023 LitCon, the largest K-8 literacy education conference in North America, in Columbus, OH; and Culturally Responsive Practice in Using Federal Grant Resourceat the Nov. 2022 the Massachusetts department of education Federal Grant Programs conference. He presented on Teaching students in poverty at the 2019 ASCD Conference on Educational Leadership.

You can also hear Albert in two podcasts, In Search of Meaning (This PhD Thinks, 2022) and Reflections on Effective IEPs (Phenomenal Spotlight W/Mr. Short: Albert Johnson-Mussad, 2023).

“Albert creates a great community within his instruction where all levels of educators are welcomed and appreciated. As a result, every member of the course is engaged and contributes knowledge based on their experiences. This means that the participants come away with enormous “hands-on” strategies with ways to use them in different settings because of the discussions we have.” –5th Grade ELA/SS Teacher

Position: Leadership and Instruction Continuous Improvement Specialist

Email: ajohnsonmussad@collaborative.org

Phone: (413) 200-8294

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