The vast majority of our country's children from low-income families are not achieving educationally, and are stuck in an entrenched cycle of poverty.

Challenge

Children from low-income families—like all kids—need the social and emotional skills that will help them strive for a different future.

The achievement gap is one of our country's most pressing social problems. While the gap between children from racial and ethnic minorities and their non-minority peers has narrowed, it is still significant, and the gap between children from low-income and higher-income families continues to grow. This contributes to a host of negative outcomes for young people, and to a cycle of poverty that persists from generation to generation. Nationally, 22% of our children live in poverty. Children from low-income families are much more likely to be several grades behind in school and ten times as likely to drop out of high school. While high academic attainment provides the most reliable ladder by which children can escape from this pattern, only 8% of low-income children nationally complete college. 

This challenge is especially pressing here in Connecticut, where our achievement gap is the widest out of all fifty states. Bridgeport—where 40% of children live in poverty and 99% qualify for free and reduced lunch—is the largest city with the lowest performing school district in Connecticut. The achievement gap begins to express itself in early childhood and elementary school, when only 29% of Bridgeport's third graders are on track academically, and widens considerably by high school; only 10% of Bridgeport tenth graders are "at goal" for reading and math. Of a freshman high school cohort in Bridgeport, only 56% will graduate, 18% will go to college, and an estimated 3% may actually complete college, thereby breaking the cycle of poverty. 

Of course, there is hope. There are many children from low-income families—in Bridgeport and elsewhere in this country—who are bucking these devastating statistics by graduating from high school and college and changing their futures.

The question is: How can we help more Bridgeport children improve their prospects?

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