Schott Foundation for Public Education’s Loving Cities Index offers framework to help cities provide all children with equal opportunity to learn and succeed.
Gregory Joseph, Spitfire Strategies
(New York, NY) – As racism and hate continue to dominate the national dialogue, the Schott Foundation for Public Education released the Loving Cities Index, a multi-state report that aims to reverse historical local policies and practices rooted in racism and bias and replace them with policies that create local loving systems from birth and promote an opportunity to learn and thrive.
By providing this new framework, the Loving Cities Index helps cities evaluate how well they are doing at providing all children – regardless of race, gender or zip code – with the supports and opportunities they need to learn and succeed. Noting that after decades of education reform, parental income remains the top predictor of student outcomes, the report challenges the notion that school-based reforms alone can provide students a fair and substantive opportunity to learn.
The report also highlights a large and growing body of research showing a clear connection between economic and racial inequality and opportunity gaps in areas like housing, health care and community involvement. These issues lie outside of the traditional education realm, but are intimately linked to high school and college attainment.
“We have known for far too long that high learning standards and standardized testing alone won’t eliminate our opportunity gaps,” said John H. Jackson, president and CEO of the Schott Foundation for Public Education. “Yet for more than three decades, too many city, state and federal systems continue to implement and institute policies that primarily focus on common standards and accountability without providing students in need and their families with a set of common resources and supports, which give them the opportunities needed to succeed.”
The Index’s framework reflects the growing calls from parents, students and educators for a shift from the dominant standards-based reform agenda to a supports-based agenda. The Loving Cities Index measures access to supports like healthy food, affordable housing, sustainable wages and public transportation, highlighting the connection between healthy living environments in communities and student academic outcomes. The Index profiles ten American cities serving large populations of low-income students and students of color and quantifies major gaps in the level of cross-sector supports being delivered to provide all students a fair opportunity to learn and to thrive – regardless of race or economic background.
The Loving Cities Indexhelps cities begin the kinds of conversations and collaborations needed to adopt a comprehensive system of supports that provide all children with an equal opportunity to thrive and succeed. The Index measures access to 24 community and school-based supports in four areas of impact:
- CARE: Health resources and physical environment that foster physical and mental development.
- STABILITY: Community infrastructure supports and policies that foster physical and financial security and civic participation
- COMMITMENT: School policies and practices that foster the unique potential of each student.
- CAPACITY: Financial policies and practices that foster expertise and resources to meet the needs of all children
Among the 10 cities studied, Long Beach, Minneapolis and Buffalo demonstrated the highest levels of supports with 50 to 52 percent of supports, achieving the “Bronze Standard” on the Loving Cities Index. Long Beach stood out from the group for having one of the highest levels of Commitment, with relatively low levels of problematic discipline policies that create school-to-prison pipelines (though Black students experience suspensions at much higher rates than White, Latino and Asian students). Buffalo had the strongest level of Care with some of the best systems in place for mental and physical health supports. Minneapolis had the strongest level of supports for Stability, with the highest rates of voter participation and youth safety.
While there are bright spots for all 10 cities studied, the Loving Cites Index shows that the work is far from over, even among cities with relatively higher Index scores. All cities show high levels of people working full time who are still earning 200 percent below the federal poverty line. They also show a housing market crisis, where the majority of residents cannot find rental options affordable to their income levels. Fair wages and affordable, safe housing are critical supports to provide children and families with stable living environments where they can access quality jobs, education and health resources, which are integral to ensuring children can succeed academically.
Across all 10 cities, we also see extremely low levels of capacity to provide children with an opportunity to learn, stemming from extreme levels of economic and racial segregation in school. Students living in poverty face trauma and toxic stress that affect their physical, emotional and behavioral health, and we rely heavily on schools and teachers to provide those students with the individualized supports they need to thrive.
However, when schools are highly segregated economically, those needs cannot be adequately managed and inequity in our school resourcing formulas means schools with the most need often have the least resources. These capacity constraints impact the number of experienced teachers, access to advanced curriculum and schools’ ability to offer support staff and services that meet all children where they are.
“For a long time, parents, students, teachers and community organizations across the country have called for a more comprehensive approach to addressing the gaps in opportunities to learn and to succeed,” said Jackson. “We developed the Loving Cities Index to align policymakers, philanthropy and other community leaders with parents and students to address the real root cause of achievement gaps in education and post-secondary attainment: significant and growing racial and economic inequalities across all sectors. Rather than strictly analyzing standards, assessments and accountability, the report calls cities to assess the level of care, stability, commitment and capacity supports they provide students – the components that create a loving system.”
The Schott Foundation used the Index to create profiles of 10 cities, including Long Beach, Calif., Minneapolis, Buffalo, Denver, Baltimore, Chicago, Charlotte, N.C., Springfield, Mass., Philadelphia and Little Rock, Ark. In the next five years, the Foundation seeks to engage over 50 cities in the Loving Cities work.
For more information, please visit www.lovingcities.schottfoundation.org.
About the Schott Foundation for Public Education
Since its inception as a family foundation, the Schott Foundation for Public Education has possessed an unwavering commitment to equity and justice that guides its mission to develop and strengthen a broad-based and representative movement to achieve fully resourced, high quality Pre-K–12 public education for all children. Schott’s core belief is that a grassroots movement is central to creating systemic change to address the disparities poor children and children of color face in schools.