Opportunity Agenda Report Card covered in Boston Globe [LINK]

Read “Hub students show progress in latest report card” in the Boston Globe online and below:


Hub students show progress in latest report card
By Akilah Johnson
Globe Staff September 22, 2011
More Boston students are starting school ready to learn, graduating from high school, and continuing on to college, but
progress is not happening fast enough, according to a new report by a partnership that aims to accelerate student
achievement from cradle to career.
“If we continue at this same rate, we’re not going to hit our goals for 2014,’’ said Kristin McSwain, executive director of
the Boston Opportunity Agenda, the year-old venture bringing together nonprofit organizations, philanthropies, and
government agencies to boost education opportunities and outcomes for Boston’s underserved communities.
“We’re making some really good baby steps,’’ McSwain said. “Now, we need to take some really good adult steps.’’
According to the report card, kindergarten literacy improved, eighth-grade algebra enrollment increased, and 10th-grade
MCAS scores grew. But third-grade proficiency rates slipped, becoming “the greatest disappointment to emerge from
the report card.’’
The study culled data from partner agencies and assessed the progress of students in Boston’s education pipeline –
kindergarten through adult education – by examining test scores at pivotal years, dropout and graduation rates, and
college completion rates.
“While there is a lot of work still to be done, I am encouraged to see progress in early literacy and a reduction in dropout
levels,’’ Mayor Thomas M. Menino said in a statement. “Through collaboration and working together as a community, we
can improve educational opportunities for all Boston youth.’’
A dozen agencies established the Boston Opportunity Agenda last year, investing $27 million through 2014 to provide
services such as early education, after-school programs, and college assistance. The consortium identified several
priority initiatives, such as the Summer Learning Project, an enrichment program to stem learning loss during summer
vacation; Success Boston, aimed at ensuring that students who get into college do not drop out; and Thrive in 5, a
citywide partnership to help make sure every child enters kindergarten ready to learn.
The overall mission is to help children living in poverty build better lives as adults by connecting the city’s sprawling
network of nonprofits, charities, and government agencies that work with children so they work in concert.
Organizers promised to release regular accountability reports, the first of which was presented yesterday. It compared
the 2009-2010 school year with the year before, which was used as a baseline.
One goal is boosting literacy for elementary school students.
Kindergartners are tested on their ABC’s, 1-2-3s, phonics, and overall classroom readiness twice a year, once when
they start kindergarten and then when they are leaving kindergarten. The goal is to have 75 percent of kindergartners hit
reading and literacy benchmarks by 2014.
The report card shows only a slight bump in the percentage of little learners who start kindergarten on target, 56 percent
at the start of the 2009-2010 school year, compared with 54 percent the year before.
But students made “a huge leap forward’’ by the time they finished kindergarten in 2009-2010, with 75 percent starting
the summer with the necessary skills to enter first grade ready to learn, the report said.
Third-graders did not fare as well. Reading scores improved in the 2009-2010 school year by 6 percentage points from
the year before, to 37 percent. But more recently released data show the scores dropped 2 percentage points in
2010-11, to 35 percent. The goal is to have 85 percent of third-graders reading at grade level by 2014.
Third-grade reading is one area in which McSwain said Boston has “really good individual work happening throughout the city but not collectively. When you think about early education, we produced a network . . . and we haven’t
necessarily done that around third-grade reading.’’
Hopefully, she said, that will change.