Poverty and exposure to adversity have been linked with decreased educational success. Various environmental and neurobiological pathways have been proposed for these associations, however, existing models have several clear drawbacks. Here we outline existing models, and propose an alternate model linking exposure to adverse experiences in childhood to education success. Specifically, we propose that measured dimensions of experience (e.g., decreased cognitive enrichment or increased exposure to violence), instead of named exposures (e.g., poverty) impact neurobiology through neurodevelopmental processes of neuroplasticity. Our model results in testable hypotheses and clear intervention strategies. We predict that exposure to trauma will have a distinct neurobiological impact from exposure to a lack of cognitive stimulation and that these distinct exposures will benefit from different interventions. Specificity in this arena is thus likely to better support educational achievement for disadvantaged children.