Independent School Guide 60.pdf



T here’s a problem with education in our country, and it has very little to do with schools themselves. Good intentions and best efforts aside, there is a persistent opportunity gap separating low-income students from their more fortunate peers. And it’s something all of us should be paying attention to. According to Lorna Smith, CEO of Westport, CT-based Horizons National, this gap in opportunity affects everyone. “It’s easy enough to think, ‘this isn’t my problem,’ but the fact is, limited opportunity for any of us means a limited future for all of us.” Statistics certainly support that perspective. Today, 51% of all public school students come from low-income families, and by the time those students arrive in kindergarten, they’re already months behind. It gets worse. Low-income students are six times more likely to drop out of high school, and fewer than one third of them will ever enroll in college. Without a college education or technical training, it’s harder than ever to find a path out of poverty. The cost to society can be measured in stagnant economic mobility – and

an estimated $300 billion in lost wages, taxable income, plus health care, welfare, and incarceration costs. In the New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut area alone, there are too many jobs that go unfilled because there are too few people qualified to fill them. Why is this so? And why do we accept it? It happens over time, and the opportunity gap actually widens when school isn’t even in session. Most students slip a little during summer vacation, when it’s easy enough to forget some of the material they just learned. But for low-income kids, this “summer slide” is often profound, setting them back as much as three months by the time they get back to school in September. All summer long, children from low-income families aren’t going to camps, or to museums, or on family trips – in fact, some aren’t even getting the food, nutrition, and exercise they depend on during the school year. The cumulative effect, year after year, is troubling; by fifth grade, low-income students can be as much as two years behind their more fortunate peers. Is there a way to fix this? Educators, parents, students, and communities might envision something like the Horizons programs


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