As the new school year resumes this month, my thoughts turn to those students who have the will to succeed, but not always the resources. Too often, we hear about dreams extinguished by a lack of opportunity across our nation. Inadequate education is perhaps the most significant of the factors perpetuating intergenerational poverty.
The New York City Department of Education has ranked many schools in our city’s poorest neighborhoods as “failing.” The consequences are disastrous: in East Harlem, only 31 percent of children perform at or above grade level in reading, and just 27 percent do so in math. In the Bronx, just 24 percent perform at or above grade level in reading and 21 percent do so in math. Accordingly, the high-school graduation rates in these communities are distressingly low, too.
Consequently, few children that the New York City Mission Society serves have any immediate family members who have graduated college, and so do not view educational achievement as a viable pathway to socioeconomic security.
As a parent, I recognize that it takes more than any one person but rather a collaborative community effort to help our students become successful. Our schools cannot shoulder the burden alone. At the Mission Society, we have developed afterschool academic programming to enhance our students’ skills. These extra resources strengthen their critical thinking and communication skills, and expose them to new careers.
This fall, I encourage parents and guardians to take steps to help their children. Join a local community education council or a Parent Teacher Association, and attend afterschool events to learn about your child’s day—showing them that their schoolwork is important and valued. Parents of English language learners can have their children translate what they’ve learned each day.
But parents should also get to know one another and identify ways to collaborate with schools and communities. I urge them to meet with school leadership and staff, and parent coordinators, to encourage feedback about their children’s strengths and weaknesses. We regularly hold afterschool parent workshops to help adults better support their students, and we welcome any newcomers.
When we work together, we can yield even greater change and open doors to new possibilities, new opportunities and new student successes.
Elsie McCabe Thompson
New York City Mission Society