Providing Quality Education

Education is the foundation for a successful life. High education levels are strongly associated with better career opportunities, higher earnings, good health, and positive wellbeing. Across the country, however, children receive unequal access to quality schools depending on where they happen to live.
High School graduates ready for the next chapter. Photo credit: New Haven Promise

Education is the foundation for a successful life. High education levels are strongly associated with better career opportunities, higher earnings, good health, and positive wellbeing. Across the country, however, children receive unequal access to quality schools depending on where they happen to live.

Connecticut has consistently had one of the highest student achievement gaps in the country between rich and poor districts, between black students and white students, and between Latino students and white students. Reducing and eliminating these disparities is necessary to create a brighter future for vulnerable young people and a thriving local economy built upon skilled workers.

The Numbers

  • Fifty-four percent of Greater New Haven 3-and-4-year olds from low-income families were enrolled in center-based preschools as compared to 67 percent of children from higher-income families.1
  • About two-thirds of white students in the state read at grade level as compared to one-third of black or Hispanic students.2
  • One in five New Haven public school students were chronically absent during the 2015-16 school year, meaning they missed at least 10 percent of school days for any reason.3
  • Eighty-five percent of Greater New Haven seniors in the class of 2014 graduated on time in four years, up from 80 percent in 2011.4
  • In 2013, 63 percent of New Haven High School graduates continued to college.5
  • Twenty-six percent of the class of 2008 attained a two- or four-year degree within six years.6

The Challenge

Children who grow up in areas of concentrated poverty are at a profound disadvantage in the classroom. Many are at a high risk of being routinely exposed to stresses that are known to have a negative impact on early brain development. They may come to school hungry or without a permanent home. And throughout their early years and beyond, they are failing to receive the resources they need.

A spotlight was shined on the inadequate governmental response to these challenges in the 2016 Hartford Superior Court decision by Judge Thomas Moukawsher.

"Too little money is chasing too many needs," Moukawsher wrote. "If the egregious gaps between rich and poor school districts in this state don't require more overall state spending, they at least cry out for coherently calibrated state spending" [that factors in] "the special circumstances of the state's poorest communities."

Greater New Haven is microcosm of the state. More than 60 percent of students in the city of New Haven have at least one of the following high-needs: takes special education classes; qualifies for free or reduced-price meals; comes from a family below 185% the federal poverty line; or is an English Language Learner (ELL). By contrast, less than a quarter of students from school districts in the outer-ring suburban towns are high needs.7

The causes of disparities, the impact of poverty on learning and the responses by local and state government to address are investigated in the seven-part Connecticut Mirror series, Troubled Schools on Trial.

Disengagement and disconnection among youth is also a large-scale problem in New Haven and Connecticut. "Untapped Potential: Engaging all Connecticut youth," is an in depth report commissioned by the Dalio Foundation on the causes and potential solutions.

Better Education = Better Lives

Improving the education system is necessary for future wellbeing of young people and the long-term civic and economic health of the region.

The unemployment rate of a high school dropout in Connecticut is about twice that of a high school graduate and three times as high as a college graduate.

Incarceration rates are three times as high for dropouts as compared to high school graduates. Over a lifetime, a high school graduate will earn on average $500,000 more than a dropout and make an estimated net fiscal contribution of $518,000 to government. An individual with a B.A. will contribute $1.2 million more.8

Educational achievement is also linked to high rates of voting and civic engagement, lower rates of divorce and out of wedlock childbirth, better health, lower crime rates, less dependence on social services, and longer lives.9

Change and Promise

In 2010, The Community Foundation, New Haven Public Schools and Yale University came together to launch an ambitious initiative to create a college-going culture in New Haven schools -- New Haven Promise. The program provides students with scholarships of up to the full tuition at an in-state public college or university, ongoing support through graduation, and connections to local career opportunities.

In its first six years, New Haven Promise has provided scholarship benefits for more than 1,000 students and their families in New Haven. New Haven Public Schools has seen district enrollment increase by 16% since 2011, reversing a steady decline in the previous five years. After five years of New Haven Promise the 4-year graduation rate in the District has increased from 58% to 75%. College enrollment for the district has increased from 56% to 64%.

New Haven Promise also helps its scholars return to the area to live, work, and serve in the City of New Haven through paid summer internships. In the summer of 2016, NHP placed more than 75 students in paid positions at Yale and other organizations.

What the Community Foundation is Doing

In 2016, The Community Foundation renewed its commitment to New Haven Promise with a three-year, $1.3 million grant. New Haven Promise is The Foundation's largest programmatic funding commitment.

Over the last decade, The Community Foundation has invested more than $11 million in discretionary funds to programs that promote quality early childhood care and education, foster parental involvement in child's learning, support charter schools, improve high school graduation rates and assist students in pursuing a college degree.

Other recent investments include more than $2 million since 2011 in the Connecticut Center for Arts & Technology (ConnCAT), a technology education center that teaches urban youth and young adults job skills that are relevant in today's marketplace.

Works Cited

1. Abraham, Mark and Mary Buchanan. (2016). Greater New Haven Community Index 2013. New Haven, CT: DataHaven, 43.

2. Thomas, Jacqueline Rabe. "Test results: Stubborn achievement gaps unchanged." The CT Mirror. July 17, 2017. Accessed July 19, 2017.

3. 2015-16 Next Generation Accountability Results. Connecticut State Dept. of Education. Accessed July 19, 2017.

4. Abraham, 47.

5. Ibid

6. Ibid

7. Abraham, 45.

8. Sum, Andrew. Center for Labor Market Studies, Northeastern University. The Economic, Social, Civic and Fiscal Consequences of Dropping Out of High School: Findings for Connecticut Adults in the 21st Century (2009).

9. Ibid