The New Haven Promise
November 19, 2010 1 Comment
Stephanie Rushford, Associate Editor
While most states and local governments are slashing spending for education and K-12 programs, in New Haven Connecticut, city officials promising students a full ride to college. Last week, Mayor John DeStefano Jr. introduced The New Haven Promise, which would give New Haven students a full-tuition college scholarship, provided they are residents of New Haven and hold a 3.0 GPA in high school. Once the students graduate, they must maintain a 2.5 GPA average each year in college to receive funding. This program will award New Haven residents on a sliding scale, with kindergarteners getting 100 percent of their college scholarship, first graders 95 percent of the award and so on, this was done to prevent parents moving into the district in their child’s last year of schooling and claiming the full award. The New Haven Promise is primarily funded by Yale University, with Yale University President Rick Levin stating at the press conference:
“This is a great day for New Haven, which means it is a great day for Yale.”
The New Haven Promise was based heavily on the Kalamazoo program based in Michigan; however the New Haven Promise has additional guidelines on behavior and high school grades. With The New Haven Promise city officials are looking to improve their students’ college retention rate, which stands at 50 percent within two years of completing high school.
The New Haven Promise is not a first of its kind; many cities across the nation have implemented college promise programs, with mixed results and criticism. In addition, both the Kalamazoo Promise and the New Haven Promise programs do not cover the expenses for room and board, which only increases over time and places a financial burden on many economically challenged students. Furthermore, these programs cease involvement in the students’ lives once they are ready to graduate college, a crucial time for young people looking for full-time employment.
While the New Haven Promise, and programs like it, may be a starting point in trying to combat the nation’s high drop out rates, these programs do not address the many problems within our education system. The great economic inequalities between our nation’s school districts is only a piece of the education puzzle, simply put, throwing money at students will not lead to deep changes within the our failing school systems. Moreover, as noted by Arthur Levine, former president of the Teacher’s College of Columbia University,
“In previous research, interviewing poor, first-generation college students, I had discovered that, in every case, a mentor had steered the student from the neighborhood to college.”
In his essay, whether he knows it or not, Levine echoes the same sentiments from then first lady, now Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton’s book, “It takes a Village: And Other Lessons Children Teach Us,”, which supports the notion that many outside factors contribute to the fate and successes of our children’s lives.
Similarly, our education system or ‘village’ must work together to educate our children; from the parents playing an active role in the child’s school attendance and homework, to teachers adjusting and modifying their lessons plans to their students’ education levels, to the principals and superintendents hiring capable teachers and preventing any students from falling through the cracks.
In his piece, Levine references the Say Yes to Education program, which also promises full- tuition scholarships, however, they also provide additional resources for students and parents. In addition to providing students and parents with financial aid coaching classes, Say Yes to Education provides parents with legal clinics to address any issues—such as eviction, deportation, and child support—which would greatly disrupt a child’s academic career.
Nevertheless, with all of these incentives for students and parents, the Say Yes to Education program has had only moderate success with improving its graduation rates. On the other hand, this program, unlike others, provides support from homeroom to the family room; teachers and school officials are not done with their jobs when the school day is over. Furthermore, the Say Yes to Education program has reached out Syracuse’s faith leaders to become involved in publicizing this program, thus inviting the adults and neighbors of this village to enact positive change in the students’ lives. The Say Yes to Education program is also working with the school district to find a new Superintendent, which greatly impacts how the school districts are funded and the staffing of personal in the school districts.
The New Haven Promise program will not be the fast and easy solution for school officials in Connecticut. Moreover, simply throwing money at the problem will not be a ‘silver bullet’ to solve the education crisis in this country; school systems need restructuring and everyone in the village must work together to educate our students.