The 15 million children growing up in poverty attend schools with fewer resources, lower expectations and fewer advanced academic classes. Given the disparity that exists between public schools in wealthy and poor communities, combined with the additional challenges associated with growing up in poverty, our nation’s public schools see dramatically different academic outcomes.

Only about 50 percent of students living in poverty graduate from high school in four years. Children who receive an inadequate education will likely face more struggles later in life — including a higher probability of living in poverty as adults.

Churches across the country are helping thousands of classrooms and schools in low-income communities defy these odds every day. For example, congregations in Indianapolis are partnering with United Way’s elementary literacy tutoring program by church volunteers devoting one hour a week to a student in a low-income public school. Indianapolis students are now outperforming other children on the Indiana state reading assessment!

In other areas, churches have started or provide volunteers for after school academic programs, tutoring and mentorship. Churches can also use their moral voice to advocate for systemic changes in public schools that will dramatically improve the life prospects for millions of God’s children.

This article originally appeared in the NAE Insight.

Nicole Baker Fulgham is the founder and president of The Expectations Project, a nonprofit organization that develops and mobilizes faith-motivated advocates who help close the academic achievement gap in public schools. She previously served with the national staff for Teach for America where she held several key leadership roles, including vice president of new site development, vice president of teacher training and support, and vice president of faith community relations. She received an Ed.D. from UCLA with a focus on urban education policy and teacher preparation.