Just a few days ago, I stumbled across a blog post by Daniel Pink showing the correlation (not causation) between income and SAT scores. (Read the entire post here.)
Looking at that data can certainly spark feelings of hopelessness. It sometimes seems as if the work of teachers is irrelevant and meaningless. Are our students destined by outside factors?
I do not believe so.
Research by John Hattie and Robert Marzano have consistently demonstrated that factors BEYOND socioeconomic status have large effect sizes on our students. Having a guaranteed and viable curriculum, delivering adequate formative feedback, or prompting metacognitive reflection, for example, affect student achievement to a greater degree than SES status.
Therefore, I think it's necessary to remember the struggles, statistics, and factors that teachers face everyday. Although the teaching profession has a high rate of burnout, teachers who were told that their work "made a difference" were able to perserve and perform more effectively. So...You can do it. Beat the statistics. Change the world by crafting superior instruction. (And if you have 15 minutes, listen to Adam Grant tell you the same thing...)