This article from Education Week (and sent to me by Breakthrough’s new Research and Policy Specialist, Elisabeth Cutler – welcome Elisabeth!) is a perfect snapshot of what Breakthrough is addressing.
Kids with talent and brains are evenly distributed throughout a city, but the purported meritocracy of educational attainment breaks down in middle school. By the time you get to your AP classes in high school, poorer neighborhoods are grossly under-represented, with a racial/ethnic disparity included. This “Achievement Trap” is just now getting more of a research spotlight, though we’ve been doing this for 30 years. Breakthrough steps in and reopens pathways for those talented kids that should be valedictorians, and are instead scrambling for graduation. We create in the summer and afterschool what the lucky few enrolled in top-notch K-8 and Middle Schools get everyday. A scholarship is not enough to equalize opportunities, and the playing field is far from level; the work needs to be done early, with passion, and with an eye to setting and supporting the highest expectations.
Remember as you go to work this summer, that we are preparing these kids for the top high schools and the elite colleges. They are smart enough to belong there (I dare you to try to find a student this summer who isn’t sharp as a tack), but the low expectations, misdirected efforts, and overstretched schools just aren’t doing it.
Every last-minute lesson you muddle through, each time you return a paper with just a score on top and no notes, every staff meeting or Mentor Teacher meeting that you doze through, you’re making the path a little steeper for your kids (even as you come to realize the challenges facing the teachers at these big public schools). Similarly, you will see the extra time you put in reflected in the work your students produce and the skills they develop. Your encouraging tone, your deliberate approach, and your fun-yet-relentless attitude will all return real learning.
This is serious work, and the stakes are high. Our vision is big, though, and so is our talent.