Education partnership aimed at creating “opportunity pipeline”

Mayor Tom Menino and Boston Public Schools superintendent Carol R. Johnson hosted an event on Tuesday at the Lilla G. Frederick Pilot Middle School on Columbia Road to unveil the Boston Opportunity Agenda, a collaborative effort by the city and several nonprofit organizations to improve education levels around Boston.

The partnership will be headed by four organizations–the United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley, the Boston Foundation, Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Boston and the Combined Jewish Philanthropies. The partnership has already committed an initial donation of $27 million, all of which has already been funneled into to supporting various existing city education programs as well as some new initiatives The funds will be distributed over the next two years.

According to the agenda’s representatives, the goal of the Boston Opportunity Agenda is to create a kind of education and opportunity “pipeline” that will begin developing children before they enter the BPS system, through high school, after they have left BPS for college, and even into adulthood.
“We don’t want to give up on people when they are 5, 10, 15, 20 or even 30” said the agenda’s chief of programs and partnership, Judith Kurland.

Currently, the agenda goals are set at a 2014 deadline. Partners have identified priority initiatives including “Thrive in Five,” a city program focused on kindergarten-aged children, in order to bolster literacy and school readiness at the start of the children’s academic lives.

Partners hope for at least 80 percent of eighth-graders to pass with a B or higher in Algebra I by 2014, and are working with “Boston After School and Beyond” to create after school and summer break programs that are aimed at improving kids’ retention of their subjects even while not in school.

Eighty percent is the minimum desired number for high school graduation in 2014. While college acceptance is a priority, Boston Opportunity Agenda representatives say that they are also making a point of focusing on successful completion of college. The agenda will be working with college completion initiative, “Success Boston” for this purpose. For adults, the agenda plans to connect to the State’s Basic Adult Education program.

“[The city is] actually doing well when it comes to college enrollment,” said Kurland. “The problem is that kids are not finishing.”

“This is about giving the kids what they really need to survive in life,” said Mayor Menino. “If something is not working, we need to get rid of it and try again.”