Eric Jones: Excerpt from Celebrate CPS Remarks

Excerpt from Eric Jones’ remarks at this year’s “Celebrate CPS” event
April 30, 2015

(Portions in italics indicate additions for purposes of this format)

A core belief informing the work of Community Partnership School asserts that talent, smarts, and want-to exist in every community, no matter the zip code. But data highlighting the situation for many in Philadelphia could lead one to draw a different conclusion about this, the “cradle of liberty.”

In Philadelphia, more than one in four lives in poverty. Children are disproportionately affected, with more than one in three children under the age of 18 living below the federal poverty level. Poverty can be directly linked to a person’s literacy level.

It’s not surprising then that Philadelphia’s graduation rate, despite significant gains over the past decade, is still around 65 percent, 15 percentage points lower than the national rate. And over half of the adult population is low-literate, which means they’d struggle to complete a job application.

Poor literacy levels are strongly correlated not only with poor academic outcomes, but negative impacts that last a lifetime.

This profile characterizes the neighborhood in which Community Partnership School is located and too many neighborhoods throughout our region.

We know the long-term impact of quality schooling, after school and summer programming, and quality parenting. And not just for kids and their individual families, but for the social fabric, for the common good. We know that every child needs this kind of guidance and support. But we also know that children from neighborhoods like the one in which CPS is located are least likely to get it.

While dialogue and debate around what to do about this reality have value, at Community Partnership School we’ve said we can’t wait for stakeholders to agree on a way out. There’s an urgency here demanding our immediate attention.

So we’ve come up with a viable solution: a high quality and affordable early childhood/elementary program primarily for families in our neighborhood and neighborhoods like it; an intimate 7:1 student teacher ratio that allows everyone to know everyone’s name; a place where well trained, mission driven educators and volunteers initiate partnerships with committed and willing parents and guardians; a community where shaping children who develop strong cognitive and social/emotional skills, as well as a strong sense of agency – a belief that I have the power to create/to produce a desired result – takes place every day.

And the partnership extends more broadly. To effectively do our work, we depend on the generous contributions of many supporters like you. Individuals, families and organizations that open doors on our behalf, that bring their know how to bear in support of our work, that attend programs we host like this one and make generous financial contributions. Our work works because of a broad network of civic-minded community members – and folks who just care about kids – galvanized around the idea that we can and must do more for all our children, no matter their zip code, and that doing so is in everybody’s interest.

It’s hard for any child to slip through the cracks when surrounded and supported by this kind of network. And we have found that kids are better positioned to access and maximize social capital when they’re prepared this way.

We look forward to telling you more about our ambitious work and, moving forward, talking with you about our transformative plans for the future.

In the meantime, all the best for a rejuvenating summer!