The idea that so many children are born into poverty in the wealthiest nation on Earth is heartbreaking enough. But the idea that a child may never be able to escape that poverty because she lacks a decent education or health care, or a community that views her future as their own, that should offend all of us and it should compel us to action.
We are a better country than this.
President Barack Obama
December 4, 2013
As a public school teacher in a high poverty school in Philadelphia, a typical day was an emotional rollercoaster. My students would inspire me with their wit and intelligence, yet I’d return home feeling powerless because of my inability to truly meet their needs. My colleagues would inspire me with their relentlessness and determination, but we’d collectively feel enraged by the system’s propensity to leave many children behind.
The fine line between inspiration and anger, hope and outrage, is reflected in the report you are about to read.
In this report, we analyzed data from all 102 high poverty schools in Allegheny County and identified those schools that are consistently breaking the link between poverty and achievement and providing all students, regardless of background, the opportunity to thrive.
Fittingly, we call these schools “Opportunity Schools.”
As you read this report, you won’t feel defeated. You’ll feel hopeful. Our thesis statement is simple: Allegheny County has schools that are high poverty AND high-performing.
In fact, there are six. And there are another 15 schools that are almost there. These great schools deserve both acknowledgement and analysis. Our report provides both.
At cocktail parties and family gatherings, I often struggle to answer a very basic question, “What do you do?” My typical answer is, “I’m the executive director of a non-profit that weaves research, communications, and lobbying to support policies that ensure all children have access to the quality education they deserve.” But the simpler, more honest answer is, “I’m trying to change the conversation.”
With this report, I hope to change the conversation in Allegheny County from “Can poor kids be expected to achieve at extraordinary levels?” to “What can we do to replicate the success of these Opportunity Schools to ensure that all students have access to a high-quality education?”
Executive Director, PennCAN