Summer is the most unequal time in America. Through no fault of their own, low-income children fare worse than wealthier peers in education, employment, health, and safety. Upending the notion that school alone is the great equalizer for poor kids, summer inequities compound over time and reveal themselves in achievement gaps and closing windows of opportunity after high school. Consequently, being low-income leads to a disadvantage in skills, social capital, and opportunity. America needs a new social contract. Boston Beyond and the Boston PIC are well-positioned to demonstrate how major cities can accomplish the previously unimaginable: ensuring that young people, regardless of income or zip code, have transformational summer learning and employment that will help them escape poverty’s long shadow. This would transform opportunity for a generation of learners and create a new paradigm for cities across the country, for generations beyond.
Boston After School & Beyondwebsite: https://bostonbeyond.org/
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The observation that poverty in the midst of plenty is agonizing is true in Massachusetts. Despite leading in average school performance, Massachusetts has substantial gaps in achievement, wealth, and life outcomes based on race and zip code. Median net worth in Boston for whites was $247,500, compared to just $8 for blacks. The notion that school alone is the great equalizer in improving life outcomes is outdated. Children spend just 20% of their waking hours in school. The other 80% of their time is where disadvantage is exacerbated. Summer is the most unequal and underutilized time in America, and with fewer summer opportunities, poor children fare worse than wealthier peers on education, health, safety and skills outcomes. Today, only one-third of young people participate in summer learning or summer jobs. Consider the consequences. A 12 year-old suburban child attends a camp, learns to sail, and makes lifelong friends. Meanwhile, the lower income young person is home with a younger sibling, perhaps spending time in front of a screen, left alone to be a caretaker because family members must go to work. As teenagers, the gap widens. The wealthier teen is hired as an intern through a family friend, bolstering her resume and learning workplace expectations, while the other misses out, with a steeper hill to climb for college admissions and future employment. The disparity in opportunities leads to compounding disparities in life. Even with great schooling, without structured summer learning opportunities young people will fall behind, year after year.
Massachusetts will build on its history of education reform, which has yet to realize its promise. Through this proposal, five high poverty American cities will demonstrate how to achieve equitable education through an evidence-based, high leverage intervention: intensive and coordinated summer learning and employment. During the term of this grant, the project will reach 200,000 young people in Boston and Gateway Cities, former manufacturing hubs which were once “gateways” to the American Dream, but now face social and economic challenges with high concentrations of low-income residents and new immigrants. Nearly two-thirds of the 129,000 public students in these cities, not including recent or undocumented immigrants, are economically disadvantaged. The project holds the potential to create a new paradigm for learning, as part of a new social contract that ensures all students have opportunities to build skills and social capital during the summer. The result: millions of students in future generations will be skilled, ready for the next school year, and better connected to employment opportunities and career paths. This “third semester” of learning will become an expectation for all young people, rather than an exclusive option for only those with financial means and connections. Data-driven improvement distinguishes Boston Beyond’s approach, using a suite of well-tested tools to assess the quality of learning experiences and student skill attainment. The project will customize and expand our online, comparative measurement dashboard and resource-rich Insight Center so that cities can learn from one another throughout the project.