Public School Kids Get A College “Promise”

Melissa Bailey Photo (Updated) High-school freshmen across the city got an offer Tuesday from the city and Yale: Keep up good grades and stay in school, and you’ll get a full ride to a state college or university.

Ellyana Simon (at right in photo), whose parents never went to college, said she’s “really excited” about the offer. Imani Manick-Highsmith (at left) said she’d like to use Promise to pay her way to study graphic design at an in-state college.

The two ninth-graders joined dozens of their peers, as well as teachers, and public officials, in a packed theater at their school, Cooperative Arts and Humanities Magnet High School, as the city unveiled a new “Promise” as part of its ambitious school reform drive.

It will pay up to 25 percent of the tuition for qualifying seniors who go on to public colleges or universities in Connecticut next year; up to 50 percent for the class after that, up to 75 percent for the following class; and up to 100 percent for the Class of 2014. Then funders will decide whether to continue the program.

Yale University has pledged up to $4 million per year to fund the new college tuition program, called New Haven Promise, according to Mayor John DeStefano, Jr. The program will be available to New Haven residents who attend public schools, with some conditions. Yale has committed to fund the program for an initial eight years as it is phased in for the four classes of current high school students; the Community Foundation for Greater New Haven will pay for the employees to administer the fund.

The program is a “contract that says to kids: If you work hard, you demonstrate academic achievement and display appropriate behaviors, we’ll give you the tools to go to college and therefore inject choice and opportunity in your lives,” said the mayor.

DeStefano and other officials announced the news at a 9:30 a.m. press conference Tuesday at the downtown Cooperative Arts and Humanities Magnet High School. To build suspense, the Board of Education hired a media consultant to build a web page that features a countdown to the announcement. The event will be live-streamed here.

“This is not a handout,” DeStefano told students assembled in the crowd at Co-op. “You will have to work hard.”

The mayor’s office billed the event as “the most significant announcement ever made in New Haven,” one that will answer the questions, “What makes a city great?” and “What does it take to help move an entire city forward into a new generation?”

DeStefano hinted at the answers in an interview before the event.

“For a city to be competitive, to be successful and vibrant, it will require a trained workforce,” the mayor said. The scholarship program will “support development of the grand list by promoting families to want to live inside the city of New Haven.”

“The most powerful way that we as a city can organize and envision our future is around the aspirations and potential of our young people. That is more powerful than a sports club, or any building that we build, or any highway that we seek to rip up, or any city office that we create, or anything else that we do,” he added.

There are at least 20 college promise programs nationwide, many based on a model pioneered in 2005 in Kalamazoo, Mich. The Kalamazoo Promise offers up to 100 percent scholarships to students who get into a state university or college and keep at least a 2.0 grade point average (GPA) there. New Haven’s model is based on Kalamazoo’s, with extra rules for behavior and high-school grades.

Melissa Bailey File PhotoNew Haven Promise has been in the works for a year and a half, but the names of the funders have not been previously disclosed. DeStefano said it will be a key component of a citywide school reform drive that aims to cut the dropout rate in half, close the achievement gap on tests, and give kids the opportunity to go to college.

Starting last year, the district started focusing on college ambition in the early grades, handing out mortar boards to kindergartners with the projected date of their college graduation.

Under the new program, current high school freshmen will get the chance to earn a free ride to a state university, if they do well in school for the next four years.

Here are the requirements:

* Residency: Students have to live in New Haven. They must graduate from a public school in New Haven, including the city’s public charter schools.

* Behavior: Students must never be expelled from high school. They must complete 40 hours of community service during high school. And they can’t miss more than 10 percent of school days during high school.

* Academics: Students must score a cumulative 3.0 GPA in high school. Each year in college, they have to maintain a 2.5 GPA.

Students who meet those criteria will get a college scholarship of up to 100 percent of tuition at state colleges and universities, for up to four years. In-state tuition is about $8,000 at the University of Connecticut (UConn) and $4,000 at the four members of the Connecticut State University System.

For students who pay for their tuition through Pell grants or other scholarships, Promise will pay up to $2,500 in remaining education costs, including tuition as well as books, fees, room and board.

Promise will also pay up to $2,500 in tuition for in-state, nonprofit colleges and universities, including Albertus Magnus, Quinnipiac, Yale and Wesleyan. There are 16 eligible institutions in that category.

Students seeking two-year scholarships have three years after graduating high school to cash in; students seeking four-year scholarships have five years.

Like the mayor’s immigrant-friendly municipal ID card, the Promise program will be open to all New Haven residents regardless of immigration status, DeStefano said. Right now, students have to be legal immigrants or citizens in order to get in-state tuition; illegal immigrants have to pay out-of-state tuition, which is about $10,000 at the state universities and $24,500 at UConn.

State legislators, including New Haven Sen. Martin Looney, have been pushing for a statewide version of the DREAM Act that would allow Connecticut residents who are undocumented immigrants to get in-state tuition. DeStefano said he will urge the state legislature to pass such a bill; he also said he’s working with various in-state colleges to work out an arrangement concerning the issue. Until such a change is made, he said, Promise will pay “full tuition” for each eligible student, even if that student is an immigrant who must pay out-of-state tuition.

“This is a community-wide initiative, intentionally so,” DeStefano said. “It is meant for everybody.”

The program is meant to encourage families to move into New Haven. To keep people from gaming the system by sending their kids to New Haven schools for only their senior year, the city has scaled benefits based on how long the student has attended public schools in the city. The scale mimics the one used in Kalamazoo.

Melissa Bailey File PhotoStudents who enter the system in pre-K or K, and stay in a district public school or New Haven charter school until 12th grade, will qualify for 100 percent benefit. Students who join the system in grades 1 to 3 will get 95 percent. Students who join in each subsequent grade will get their benefit reduced by 5 percent per grade, until freshman year of high school. Students who join the district in ninth grade qualify for 65 percent of the benefit; those joining sophomore, junior or senior year qualify for none.

“We don’t want people moving into the city in their kids’ junior year,” DeStefano explained.

If Promise had been offered to the Class of 2009, about 211 city students would have qualified for some Promise money, according to the mayor.

The scholarships will be paid for by Yale, which has agreed to pay up to $4 million per year for the first four classes of students in the program. That’s seven years of college, for a total of up to $28 million. DeStefano said the total won’t be near that figure, because the program will be phased in as follows:

The program will start with current seniors, the Class of 2011, who will qualify for 25 percent of their benefit. Juniors, the Class of 2012, qualify for 50 percent. Sophomores, the Class of 2013, qualify for 75 percent. Four years from now, the current freshmen will be the first to enjoy the full 100 percent of their eligible benefit—which, depending on how long they’ve been with the district, could be a full ride to college.

To promote the new program, the school board on Monday approved a contract of up to $20,000 with media consultant Andre Yap, and his business Ripple 100 on Chapel Street, to maintain a New Haven School Change/Promise Website from Oct. 26, 2010 to June 30, 2011. The money will come from the school district operating budget.

Beyond that amount, DeStefano didn’t specify how much city money will go into the Promise program.

“Our dollars will be the last dollars in,” in terms of paying student tuition, he said. He said he plans to do further fundraising as the program grows.


Emily Byrne, the mayor’s deputy chief of staff, will leave the mayor’s office to become the acting executive director of the fund, DeStefano said.

The Community Foundation for Greater New Haven will pay for her salary and for any other staff to administer the fund, he said. The fund will operate as a directed fund run by the foundation, managed by a five-member board of governance. The board will consist of the mayor of New Haven, someone chosen by Yale, someone chosen by the foundation, and two other people chosen by the first three.

The foundation has an eight-year contract to administer the fund for the four current high school classes. The cost will be $500,000 per year, DeStefano said. With each new freshman class, Yale and the foundation will have to sign a contract to fund that specific class through college.

The New Haven Promise will be run out of an office on the campus of the Southern Connecticut State University. The board of governors will be tasked with reviewing the program’s performance. It will also create a new “data platform” to track how well public school graduates perform in college.

In New Haven, only 50 percent of New Haven Public School graduates are enrolled in their second year of college within two years of finishing high school. The district aims to boost that number to 75 percent by 2015.

The program has three goals, DeStefano said: “building an aspiration for college-going” among students; building a community team to support that effort; and growing economic development in New Haven. The second part—building a community of adults to get involved in the program—has yet to be developed, DeStefano said.

Getting kids focused on college from kindergarten is something that charter schools have been aggressively promoting. The New Haven Public Schools followed suit last year, introducing mortar boards for kindergartners. 

DeStefano said without the other components of the city’s school reform drive—such as a new teacher evaluation system, school surveys, a landmark teacher contract and “portfolio management” of schools—there wouldn’t be the supports in place to get students ready for college.

Kalamazoo Revisited

Will the effort “move an entire city forward into a new generation?”

Promise programs in Pittsburgh, El Dorado and Kalamazoo have boosted public school enrollment, test scores, and even home values, according to an information packet assembled by the city. The document touted a “multitude of benefits.”

Researchers at the W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research in Michigan have spent a considerable amount of time studying the Kalamazoo Promise. A team of them in June presented what they called “strong evidence” that after the Promise was introduced in 2005, students did better in school and enrollment improved significantly. Click here to read more.

Another researcher at the institute, Michelle Miller-Adams, took an in-depth look at the much-emulated program in a 2009 book called “The Power of a Promise: Education and Economic Renewal in Kalamazoo.”

She warns that “changes in school enrollment, graduation rates, and housing prices have all been cited by those planning their own Promise-type programs. Often, however, these data have been taken out of context and their meaning is not always clear.”

In her book, she describes a town auditorium “humming with excitement” on Nov. 15, 2005, when “Hundreds of students, parents, teachers, and administrators had come to celebrate the news that a group of anonymous donors had pledged to provide full college scholarships to every graduate of the Kalamazoo Public Schools (KPS) for decades to come.”

“If the short-term benefits of the program are oversold,” she warned, “popular enthusiasm and support within Kalamazoo could wane when they fail to materialize.” She cautioned that other towns seeking to emulate the program to make sure that the “broader public understands the long-term strategy,” and instead of being “eager for quick results.”

Rally Draws Top Guns

At Tuesday morning’s announcement, students got bright blue Promise T-shirts and pennants to wave as they entered the theater for the rally-style event, which featured a student stepping show and a dance performance by mayoral spokeswoman Jessica Mayorga. The stage filled with politicians and officials from local education institutions.

Students at every school in the city watched the announcement via live-stream on a new Web site set up for the Promise fund,

Will Ginsberg, CEO of the Community Foundation For Greater New Haven, said the foundation has long believed that “education is the base” on which long term social growth will be built. “This is a moment of great promise for our city,” he said.

“This is a great day for New Haven, which means it is a great day for Yale,” said Yale President Rick Levin. The strength of Yale is “inextricably linked” to the strength of New Haven, he explained.

He noted that each year of college-going increases a person’s earning potential by $10,000. While unemployment sits at 9.6 percent nationwide, it’s only 5 percent for college graduates, he said. He promised that if students go to college, they can land jobs at Yale, Yale-New Haven Hospital, or at nearby employers like Covidien and HigherOne. “A great life can be yours in this great community,” he said.

Gov.-elect Dan Malloy praised Promise as the “capstone” of an urban education system. He applauded New Haven for seeking to “guarantee results” for kids, rather than just offer them an opportunity.

DeStefano said New Haven Promise will be better than those pioneered in other communities: Unlike in Kalamazoo and Pittsburgh, he said, New Haven’s program will take place in the context of an aggressive school reform drive.



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posted by: Mark Egan on November 9, 2010  10:42am

This is just a cheap publicity job by Johnny Boy to make himself look good now Malloy just became governor. Forget it DeStefano, your a has been. I can’t afford any more taxes to keep you in office.

posted by: streever on November 9, 2010  10:51am

This is a great success for New Haven. Byrne is a hard-working and dedicated person—I think she is an excellent choice to head this fund.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on November 9, 2010  10:55am

Another pipe dream and three card monte con game being sold to the school children and there parents.

posted by: Luis Cotto on November 9, 2010  11:07am

Congrats to New Haven for being the first in the State to institute this.  Mayor Segarra up in Hartford had already made that one of his main goals for his tenure and there currently is a bill at the state level to institute statewide.

posted by: Tim Bartik on November 9, 2010  11:12am


I certainly appreciate the mention of our research on the Kalamazoo Promise. However, the correct name of the Upjohn Institute is not the “Upjohn Institute for Unemployment”, which sounds like an organization with nefarious purposes, but the “Upjohn Institute for Employment Research”.


Tim Bartik, Senior Economist, Upjohn Institute
[Fixed. Thanks.]

posted by: gabriela on November 9, 2010  11:20am

This has been in the works for sometime…I think its a sign of dedication and commitment when our leaders are able to see something working in other communities and work hard to emulate it. I have lived in many different places, some places which people *think* are better than New Haven…but in the end, I have never seen so many people of different backgrounds, and affiliations work so hard to get progress in their communities. We are blessed, and I am grateful.

posted by: Moe on November 9, 2010  11:26am

Wow! I thought I was a cynic! This is great news for New Haven public school families!

posted by: Paul Nunez on November 9, 2010  11:33am

This program comes after several years of hard-work and coalition building. This will benefit alot of students and will go a long in giving middle class families in New Haven more reason to stay.  Congratulations and good luck to Emily Byrne who has made the fruition of this program her passion.

posted by: embee on November 9, 2010  11:42am

This could be a great thing!  But the small print says it is only funded until 2015, and then it will be reviewed on a yearly basis. 

As a mother of young children, who would love to use this as a reason to convince my suburban loving spouse to move to New Haven, I need to know it will be around in 2023 when my oldest son will be graduating from high school. 

Knowing that it is not yet funded past 2015 is not going to entice anyone to move to Nwe Haven.

posted by: Henry Fernandez on November 9, 2010  12:01pm

This is simply amazing.  A tremendous congratulations to John DeStefano, Rick Levin and Will Ginsberg as well as the institutions that they lead.

When a city stands up during hard economic times and makes it clear that our children are our future, we should all be proud.  Too often leaders mouth these words but their actions fall far short of their statements.  Not here and not now.

Today is a great day.

posted by: jackie on November 9, 2010  12:03pm

Great to see this kind of progress by leaders like DeStefano. Especially happy to see the DREAM Act included. Hope the rest of the nation wakes up to follow this bright example instead of the current path, which denies our kids a future.

posted by: FIX THE SCHOOLS on November 9, 2010  12:32pm

With the New Haven Promise, Mayor DeStefano, President Levin, and Will Ginsberg have just removed a huge rock sitting in the middle of the road to college for thousands of students.

posted by: Mike Jones on November 9, 2010  12:32pm

This is a tremendous step forward for students and families in New Haven. Thanks to everyone whose work made this day possible!

posted by: streever on November 9, 2010  12:39pm

Yea—the 2015 thing is the only thing which makes me nervous. If we review it to see if it has succeeded then, I’m afraid it won’t have had enough time to make a measurable impact. I think based on the success of the program in other municipalities, we should have a review period which could culminate in CHANGES to the way we do the program, but NOT in removing the program.

These types of programs have and continue to work elsewhere.

I’m a bit astonished at the level of skepticism displayed by the other commentators. While I don’t agree with many of the decisions made by the city in general, this one is a truly great idea.

Just put yourselves in the shoes of a child who had no other option before for college—now you see a path to higher education as part of your NHPS experience? I can’t believe that this isn’t going to be a valuable motivator and tool for our students.

posted by: Todd Foster on November 9, 2010  12:41pm

Yea, New Haven! We are an Upward Bound kind of city! Of course there are no guarantees for the long term. How could there be without a track record of success? That’s only as it should be. It’s great that there is an element of this that may attract families from outside the city, but it’s up to all of us to make sure it works for the kids who already live here. It’s a call for all hands on deck to get as many kids as possible eligible! What an opportunity to truly BE a community!

posted by: anon on November 9, 2010  12:47pm

“Knowing that it is not yet funded past 2015 is not going to entice anyone to move to New Haven.”

Why a commitment of only 7 years, not longer, like in Pittsburgh?

posted by: Exiled Italian Shill on November 9, 2010  1:05pm

I have to hand it to them that it was worth the hype.  Wish they would have had this program several years ago.  Fantastic news now lets see if the new mayor segarra can accomplish the same thing in Hartford.

Yet its sad to see so many haters once again on the blogs.  Bass lost control of this site a couple of years ago to all the negative jerks.

posted by: Concernedwestvilleres on November 9, 2010  1:27pm

This is a program that has great potential for New Haven and the Public Schools.  Yes, it is only funded through 2015.  However it is for kids who are now in 9th grade and up.  They will be the benchmarks.  As the children enter 9th grade will this promise encourage them to do better in school, behave well, and be involved in the community.  If it does then it is a success.  Will it also encourage families to move to the city from the suburbs?  That is another question.  I dislike DeStefano and want to see him voted out, but this is a win-win program for the city and for our youth.

There are problems though that will need to be incorporated into any evaluation.  First it is said that by 3rd grade success or failure in school can be fairly determined.  Thus it may be hard for a child entering 9th grade who hasn’t done well to be able to take advantage of the program keeping the participation rate down.  A second problem is that while it is good to keep students at schools in CT, the jobs outlook for years to come is weak at best.  CT has 0 job growth over the past 20 years.  What future will await these children when they leave college when there are so many college graduates who are struggling to find jobs now?  Unless the economy booms soon, these students will have degrees but nowhere to work except outside CT.  So in essence CT is paying for their education and another state or country is reaping the benefits.

Another issue is the scholarships are available to illegal immigrants.  Illegal immigrants can’t work (the dreaded I-9 form) so even getting a college education won’t help them going forward unless sensible immigration reform is passed.  If Congress and the White House can agree on immigration reform then it will be beneficial to them.

Finally, the issue of current funding for state colleges is a problem.  The state is facing a huge budget deficit which will likely result in cuts to the colleges.  Now, there is a promise for scholarships but the colleges may not be able to take the kids resulting in disappointment.  Hopefully Malloy won’t cut back too much, but it’s an easy target.  If the economy doesn’t rebound in a few years then there could be a mess and alot of disappointment.

I love the program and concept and I hope it works well.  I hope my doubts are unfounded.  Good job Yale, Community Foundation, and King John.

posted by: ASL on November 9, 2010  1:34pm

This is great news.

A piece in this weekend’s New York Times described a program in Yonkers that addresses another necessary piece of this puzzle—strong college admissions advising programs for high school students. college&st=cse

“The new Yonkers centers — each staffed by a full-time college adviser — supplement the guidance departments, which have counseling loads as high as 1 to 300. The centers are intended to provide a level of personalized attention and help more typically afforded to students in affluent suburban districts and private schools; nearly three-quarters of Yonkers’s 25,600 students are poor enough to qualify for free and reduced-price lunches.

. . .

At Roosevelt High School, students sent out 1,100 college applications in 2009-10, nearly double the number from the previous year, according to Dina Santana, the college adviser there since fall 2008. ‘That’s my job,’ she said. ‘I’m there just to do the college stuff. I want to make sure they have a plan when they leave.’

. . .

The six college centers were paid for by Yonkers Partners in Education, a nonprofit organization started by the city’s mayor, Philip A. Amicone, and community and business leaders. Since 2007, it has raised about $2 million for the public schools from local businesses and foundations, including Domino Brands, which owns a sugar refinery in Yonkers and pledged $232,000 for the college center at Saunders.”

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on November 9, 2010  1:35pm

Don’t worry People.The truth is comming out about this type of con. On Nov 30.Diane Ravitch will be here to speak.I saw her last week in New York mop the floor with Joel Klein
Chancellor New York City Department of Education. Hey my main man Fix the schools get ready for this.I will be there.I saw the program some guy from achievement first,I didn’t see Alex Johnson or anyone from Amistad Academy.Hey Fix are you on the panel?For those of you who have never seen Diane Ravitch in action check this out.

posted by: B. on November 9, 2010  1:40pm

This is a great concept and I do hope that it benefits some of the children.  However, as a non-New Haven parent whose child attends a magnet school, I am a little upset that there is nothing for these children.  When you do not include EVERY child in EVERY New Haven School, you start to wonder about the motives.  Putting New Haven on the map by excluding some children who are a part of the system does not seem at all fair.

posted by: robn on November 9, 2010  1:46pm

I feel that there’s a requirement missing. The contract should require successful students to RETURN to New Haven within the first decade after college for a specified period of time (like a decade duration) so that they can create businesses and be community leaders.

We want educated young adults, but we should also want them back when their education is finished.

posted by: anon on November 9, 2010  2:08pm

Robn is correct - the scholarships should be awarded only to graduates who stay in the city and contribute to its success over the long term.

How about a no interest loan of 100% of the cost of college, but students are required to pay it back if they don’t move back to New Haven, or if they don’t obtain a degree.

posted by: FIX THE SCHOOLS on November 9, 2010  2:08pm

3/5,  I wasn’t planning on it but if I go see Ravitch, will you attend the next visitor morning at Amistad?

And if I go, I’d like to understand why she doesn’t think that HIGH PERFORMING charters are an important part of the formula for reform, or why she wants to throw “high stakes” testing out with the bathwater. (Don’t you wonder how Dr. Ravitch ever made it to the pinnacle of academia without ever taking a high stakes test herself?) She also assiduously avoids any criticism of the teacher’s unions which are of course the last major structural barrier barring the way of high speed educational reform in America.  It’s as if she doesn’t appreciate that support of great teachers and support of the regressive education unions are different.

So 3/5, what do you say?

posted by: doglover1 on November 9, 2010  2:38pm

Kudos to New Haven for stepping up! Bummer that the Magnet kids aren’t included.My high schooler gets straight A’s, takes full load of AP classes and has missed 2 days of school in 3 years.  If they’d like us to continue to send our kids to help drive up the CAPT scores, there should be some reciprocity.

posted by: Vinny G on November 9, 2010  2:41pm

Is there any statistical data on hand that shows how many New Haven resident high school graduates move on to higher education? Also GPA wise of a 3.0 or greater?

posted by: RichTherrn on November 9, 2010  2:42pm

I just left some schools where students are excited. It was pointed out how many of their teachers are still paying off student loans, and they were clear as to the advantage this gives them. ALL the students at this K-8 school had the expectation of going to college. They also noticed all the New Haven employers: Yale, the hospitals, the colleges, the bio-tech firms, etc… and they knew how important it is to prepare for these jobs. Especially in STEM areas, of course, because that is where the growth will be in this area. It is aiming students at their future, and the adults are poised to help them take advantage of it.
Richard Therrien
NHPS K-12 Science Supervisor

posted by: Jill on November 9, 2010  3:05pm

The VISION, GENEROSITY and FOLLOW THROUGH to create such an opportunity is MONUMENTAL!  This provides hope to so many children and ultimately ushers in a better life for generations to come.  Not just for the children who receive it .. but their kids and their kids .. and so on.  It can break the cycle of poverty in many homes.
(It’s amazing some people can still find negativity in so grand an idea.  Lincoln was right “you can’t please all the people all the time.”)  Why not be grateful?!
Whether they stay in New Haven or not ..The lives this will change will impact the world at large for the better ..  it’s a good thing for the kids, but even better for the highest good of all of us.

posted by: Elisa on November 9, 2010  3:21pm

B., I hear what you are saying about suburban NHPS students in magnet schools, but part of the program’s point is to encourage families to move to New Haven.

As for long-term funding, this is the type of program that will be very difficult to get rid of once it has started.  It would be a PR nightmare.  I see no barriers to it achieving its goals and continuing past 2015.  I’m really happy for our city!

posted by: FIX THE SCHOOLS on November 9, 2010  3:22pm


If we make New Haven into the finest urban school district in the country, we won’t have to require indentured servitiude.  If we achieve the goal, our problem will not be a lack of community leaders or entrepreneurs, it will be demand for housing and services from tax-paying families and businesses who feel the need to be into a a vibrant, educated, economically strong city.

posted by: Troy on November 9, 2010  3:30pm

As the parent of school aged children in New Haven, I’m tempted to quote our Vice-President, but instead I’ll simply say this is a **VERY** big deal!  I’m proud of our community for moving this idea forward, and I’m especially proud of Yale University for making this commitment during tough economic times.  Ensuring that dedicated students have access to the opportunity to pursue their personal goals is tremendous, and I hope it offers a beacon of possibility to those who might otherwise not see college in their future.

As a nation we are fond of thinking of our society as a meritocracy, but without access to education the prospects for this ideal are bleak.

posted by: new haven resident on November 9, 2010  3:48pm

I appreciate the coverage inc citations to research and efforts by the city and Yale.  It is nice to also see some great posts. 

One last thought in reference to the “too bad about magnet school” students.  All our state funding helps pay for magnet schools and we all benefit.  I do not believe non-New Haven students are solicited to drive up CAPT scores.  Note also that those of us who chosse to live in New Haven pay a 43.9 mill rate.  Far more than those who come in from Branford (23.57, Milford 28.44, Wallingford 24.08, and West Haven 27.96)

posted by: EducationScholar on November 9, 2010  4:00pm

This is awesome. But I’m just curious as to why students can only get $2500 toward private in-state colleges and universities, when they get for more than that at lower cost schools. At many of these schools, $2500 is less than 5% of the cost of going to QU, Yale, Wesleyan etc (which are now over $50K/year). Kudos to New Haven though for a step in the right direction!

posted by: Ron Johnson on November 9, 2010  4:01pm


See the article on with the City of New Haven’s school program - “Promise”


posted by: anon on November 9, 2010  4:10pm

Fix the Schools, nobody said anything about “indentured servitude.” I’m sure you have heard of tuition repayment programs, like those in New Zealand, or at Yale Law School, where graduates pay back their tuition over a period of years based on their incomes.  Students in these types of programs get free tuition, but then have to pay it back depending on a number of factors - nobody requires them to pay it back beyond their means.

Such a system would be fairly easy to implement in New Haven, and would help ensure that the city gets a fair return on its collective resources.  If a graduate of NHPS and a CT college decided to live and raise a family in New Haven, they should get an even larger break on tuition, room & board, because we would all benefit from that decision.  If they move to Atlanta or Las Vegas, they could be asked to pay the scholarship back over a 20 year period, provided that it was within their means, and help replenish the fund.

Of the relatively tiny fraction of NHPS students who were even eligible for this scholarship this year (after accounting the 40% who dropped out, and the majority who didn’t go on to college or stay in college for more than a year), how many end up working in New Haven 5-10 years out? 

Simple questions, but answering them can help ensure that all New Haven students have the support they need to access good jobs - not just the few that have high enough GPAs to get into a college.

posted by: anon on November 9, 2010  4:18pm


For most students in the NHPS system, Yale would actually be next to free.  It has the most generous financial aid program in the country - for most families, Yale is now cheaper to attend than their flagship state university. Yale has been rated the “best value” of any college in the country by a number of magazines because of this.

Yale College admits students for their academic and personal promise, without regard to ability to pay. Families earning less than $60,000 annually do not make any contribution to the cost of an admitted child’s education, and families earning between $60,000 and $120,000 typically contribute only 1% to 10% of their income.

The University provides more than $100 million annually in financial aid for Yale College students - that’s a lot more than it will be providing to New Haven Promise.

In addition, Yale pays for its employees’ kids to go to college through a “Yale Sons and Daughters Scholarship,” which is something like $15,000 per year to go anywhere.  Is there any evidence that the “Yale Sons and Daughters Scholarship” has created a “culture of success” among the offspring of Yale employees?

posted by: Just a thought... on November 9, 2010  4:33pm

If you have a gpa below 3.0 do you not get any help with college funding or is it less for a lower high school gpa? There are some students with lower gpa’s who are trying really hard and never miss school or homework assignments, but have little support from home or maybe a learning problem. I hope they will be encouraged to succeed in furthering their education. Are technical or trade schools eligible?

posted by: FIX THE SCHOOLS on November 9, 2010  4:37pm

Anon, You raise an important question/concept. 

I would argue that we shouldn’t worry about what happens after college.  If Promise-funded graduates want to move to another place to pursue employment then they should be able to go without penalty. 

If we close the achievement gap by a wide margin (turning out 80% college-ready and college-bound vs 20% today) then we and Yale will get our value not mainly from returning students but from lots of other people who want to emigrate TO New Haven for all the right reasons…including the fact that our city has a GREAT education system, successful growth companies, high compensation, and overall a high quality of life for 99% of us. 

Maybe you raise the issue out of a concern about a brain drain or somehow that New Haven will get the short end of the stick.  But if we close the gap, I would put forth that for every graduating student who decides not to move back to New Haven, there would be 10 talented, productive people who want to move in!

So let them fly without strings. After all, the numbers tell us that they will find their way back home eventually!

posted by: 3kidz on November 9, 2010  4:51pm

Mill rates are high for East Haven too-37 to New Haven’s 44.  One of the current challenges of living in New Haven is that you may end up in a low-performing school. Plenty of New Haven parents are unable to get into their 1st, 2nd AND 3rd choice Magnets. Guess where those kids are going? Catholic & other private schools. This doesn’t support the city’s goal. As an East Haven resident, I got first choice for 2 of 3 kids. We’re lucky and grateful and participate fully in supporting the NHPS and New Haven business. We’ll continue to support the schools & city we love, but can’t help but be disappointed by being cut out of the program.

posted by: East Rocker on November 9, 2010  4:52pm

This seems like a great program and will hopefully produce great results for the people of this city.

At the same time, I can’t help but think about the several hundred former employees of Yale who lost their jobs in the past two or three years because of “budget cuts”, only to see Yale suddenly cough up millions and millions of dollars to fund this initiative.  While there is certainly an element of self-interest in this on Yale’s part - anything to make New Haven better will help Yale - this program is really quite far removed from Yale’s mission as a university.  It is not Yale’s responsibility to pay for college for every kid in New Haven.  That may be a very generous thing to do, and maybe they should, but my point is that if they can find the money to do something like this, perhaps they shouldn’t have laid off so many people…

posted by: FIX THE SCHOOLS on November 9, 2010  5:42pm

East Rocker,

Promise is VERY self-interested on the part of Yale.  And there is nothing wrong with that.  In fact, we citizens of New Haven are fortunate that Yale has recognized that poverty and crime in New Haven are serious threats to Yale’s reputation…and that great education is the antidote to these threats. 

Lay-offs will happen with every company and through every economic cycle.  It seems to me that ever since Rick Levin arrived, Yale has been one of the most responsible employers around. 

The Promise commitment is a significant investment and must be sustained through all cycles.  It is not a trade-off between jobs and public education.

posted by: mother of a magnet school child & a district schoo on November 9, 2010  5:48pm

I am not sure i see where it states ” no magnet schools
” ? both of my children were given paperwork today for this program b/c they were new haven residents .
paperwork from both the magnet school & the district school. i guess i am ?

posted by: JB on November 9, 2010  5:52pm

Will this program have income guidelines?  Not all graduates of New Haven public schools are low income.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on November 9, 2010  6:38pm

FIX THE SCHOOLS on November 9, 2010 1:

She also assiduously avoids any criticism of the teacher’s unions which are of course the last major structural barrier barring the way of high speed educational reform in America.

Not true fix.She talks about how the teachers unions are not barriers.In fact when I saw her speak I also heard professor Clarence Taylor speak and as of now reading his book call Reds at the Blackboard: Communism, Civil Rights, and the New York City Teachers Union.Did you know Fix that because of the McCarthy period of the 1950s was the reason why the teachers unions started.Did you know that Over 1,100 teachers and other school employees were called in for questioning, and ultimately over 400 resigned, retired, or were fired outright as the Board sought to rout Communists and other left-leaning teachers out of its classrooms. This sounds like the New Haven school board.You remember how me and you talk about the rubber room. Did you know also that Teachers Unions advocated what would later be labeled as social movement unionism, making strong alliances with unions, black and Latino parents, civil rights and civil organizations, and political parties in order to gain greater resources for the schools and the communities in which they worked. In particular, the TU fought to end racial discrimination, poverty and other barriers to success for children. It worked to increase teachers’ salaries and improve working conditions. However, it went beyond professional unionism and advocated a unionism that would help transform the larger society.

Brian JonesTeacher and activist
Posted: October 15, 2010 01:15  
Charter Schools and Civil Rights: What Kind of ‘Movement’ is This?

you and others who feel you don’t need unions need to get this book.

will you attend the next visitor morning at Amistad.

Attend for what. Just Like all of the other charter schools the board is full of corporate vampires.And they are there for profit.Plus I must now keep a eye on Dan malloy,He has a board memember from conncan on the transition team.Bottom line I don’t think there is anyone in New Haven that will be able to debate Diane Ravitch this women is a master educator.Like I said you should get on the panel.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on November 9, 2010  7:03pm

Hey fix.I friend just send this to me.Joel Klein the New York City schools chancellor is resigning.Wow That was you main man.Now he is being replaced with Cathleen P. Black the chairwoman of Hearst Magazines Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg announced at City Hall Tuesday afternoon. You see fix this is what school reform is about.How can a person who was never in education run a public school system.Like I said corporate vampires are takingover.People wake up New Haven will be next.

Hearst Official to Replace Klein at Helm of N.Y. Schools
Published: November 9, 2010;

posted by: webblog1 on November 9, 2010  8:07pm

Good concept, but, rewarding illegal immigrants diminishes the impact for needy legal New Haven residents.

Another DeStefano blunder, resulting in TL3, Too little, Too Late, Too many.

posted by: 4sure on November 9, 2010  9:01pm

This can be a great plan. However New Haven schools & PARENTS must prepare the students for college. How many current New Haven seniors that reside in New Haven have a 3.0 GPA? Better yet how many know what a GPA is?
I attended New Haven public schools & the guidance counselors did not offer much. Basically worthless. Many students have plans for college however are not prepared. Students must get information as a freshmen. Make a plan year by year. Grades count! Having a “B” average in lower level classes will not prepare you for college. Children have to take challenging classes because there are no LOW LEVEL courses in college. So New Haven schools & parents MUST step up to the plate on educating students or this will not work…...
Review websites etc.
Good Luck New Haven students.

posted by: Michael on November 9, 2010  9:10pm

Hope for a lot of kids and families who had little before….wonderful!

posted by: Blarney on November 9, 2010  9:19pm

My children, a Freshman and Sophomore at Cross, laughed because they would never even consider going to a state school. My daughter who is an honors student and attends ECA said yeah, well I am going to Princeton. It’s like throwing crumbs to the masses in hopes that they will finish high school? Arggghhh. Hate public schools. Not to mention the students were taken out of class to view a video of King John. Great use of class time ...!

posted by: Snake Oil on November 9, 2010  10:32pm

This a game being played on the innocent. If your kid’s going to college their going to college. Don’t matter what the city pays. If there smart the’ll get the money. Looks like our mayors going to do 2 more terms. Buying kids false dreams the same tricks as buying votes.

posted by: NewHavenerToo on November 9, 2010  11:19pm

Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad that these children have such a great opportunity ...BUT….it’s a daggone shame this wasn’t thought about before….I really could have used this help for my daughter who is now a freshman in college.

posted by: Tom Burns on November 9, 2010  11:47pm

Great stuff—I am so proud to be a part of this whole new education movement from top to bottom. Mayor Destefano has been working on this for quite a while—I dont see any other mayor in any other town across the country doing the things that he does for the families of New Haven——this is BIG—-Congrats—and thanks go out to all the funders—-now that it is here I am sure it will stay—-now all of our students have an opportunity with no excuses—To Three-fifths—(I am on the panel with Ravitch)please say hello if you go—-To Fix—where have you been, still beating the old drum about regressive teachers unions—-what about us? I know you read the papers—We are the most progressive union in the country and are proud of it—TOGETHER we will give our children all they need—and this is our time—NEW HAVEN should be awfully proud—-I am—hope to see you at Ravitch round-table—To Blarney—good luck to your kids at Princeton(you said they attend Cross)so how can they be educated well enough to go to Princeton if they attend Cross- you say you hate Public Schools—you can do us all a favor with your negative attitude and put your kids in a private school now—-but they couldn’t't get a better education than they would at Cross, now, would they? I believe your kids still qualify for $2500—Our teachers are second to none and that is why students from other towns continue to apply to our school system—We are truly on our way to big things——Tom Burns

posted by: AMCgrad on November 9, 2010  11:53pm

I just spoke by phone with the college senior in our family who was very excited to hear about this great new effort.  I said,“so maybe when it is time to have a family you might come back to your hometown?”  She responded enthusiastically.  I think this is a wonderful idea and love the hope it will give children, including immigrant children.  Suburban parents with kids in the magnets, commit to this City before asking for tuition benefits, please.

posted by: Pedro on November 10, 2010  12:07am

Yeah but….

Right now the Mayor wants New Haven families to suffer via layoffs and cutbacks.  This is just false to think kids have a future in New Haven.  The teachers, police and fire don’t have to live here and City Hal is about to implode under threat of layoffs and cutbacks.

posted by: Zaina Omer on November 10, 2010  12:10am

I am a student currently attending Cooperative high school, there has been a great over sight in the New Haven promise, Only those students who live in New Haven can receive a scholarship, however its said on the New Haven inter-district schools website that 30% of enrolled students in New Haven schools do not live in new haven. this is a petition speaking out for all those students who get the same education and work just as hard as everyone else in the district be offered the same opportunities as there classmates

posted by: Chris Gray on November 10, 2010  2:15am

New Haven Promise brings up an issue close to my heart. 

First, I stipulate that higher education may well be necessary in today’s world but let me say a word about the world in which I grew up.  I am a proud high school graduate with a couple of years of higher education under my belt.  Moreover, my high school education began early in that during the three days prior to starting 9th grade I picked out a book from our family library that my father bought while trying for self-improvement, the 1932 edition of High School Self-Taught and pored over it day and night.  I skated through the next four years, hardly cracking a text book but reading voraciously.

One of the disadvantages of higher education in our society is the financial cost and New Haven Promise would help defray but never completely eliminate those.  Another cost will be creativity.  Susan Hockfeld, now M.I.T. President and former Yale Provost, just said on Charlie Rose that our great universities are “cauldrons of collaboration” that contribute to the uniquely American value of innovation which results from them.

From a lifetime of work in theater, a most collaborative art form, I can assure you that art by committee becomes the most derivative and a unifying vision is needed to cement any production, the director’s.  Bill Gates didn’t wait for a college degree or a committee’s agreement before he started Microsoft.

So, while New Haven Promise advances a noble goal, I promise that if students apply themselves to studying what inspires their socially responsible passions (and I recommend the latest edition of High School Self-Taught to start – it guided my ex to a G.E.D. and an Accounting degree), even if New Haven Promise fails to make good on that promise or you fail to meet every criterion, you can begin a future far more enriched than those who take high school as a joke.

The Obama Administration’s emphasis, like this initiative’s, on higher education is somewhat misplaced.  I prefer the Franklin Model, both the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia and Young Men’s Institute, here in New Haven, were supposedly founded by Ben to help self-educate tradesmen.  Rather than squelching creativity with collaboration it frees it to seek the less lowest common denominator approach!  It is also cheaper!

Besides, shouldn’t we try to get the number of our kids to successfully complete high school up before we talk about the dream or even the nightmare (my experience) of college?

posted by: "Low-Performing?" on November 10, 2010  8:39am

I wanted to clarify something to 3kidz, who said that “one of the current challenges of living in New Haven is that you may end up in a low-performing school.”

A “low-performing” school does not mean that all kids in that school will not receive a good education.  It does not mean that all teachers are poor.  Sending your suburban kid to learn next to urban kids—some of whom do well, and some of whom do not—does not mean that he/she will also perform at a low level.  The way our schools are measured is NOT representative of the level of quality of education offered.

Besides, there are plenty of suburban schools with “low-performance,” as there are also plenty of suburban schools whose kids perform higher on tests, under weaker teachers.

posted by: anon on November 10, 2010  9:02am

Combined with incentives for city employees to actually live here (currently, most of them don’t), this program could really make a difference.  Currently, most city employees don’t live in the city, which hurts, because we are basically taxing low income people in order to pay for a relatively well-paid city workforce (on average, when you include salaries and benefits, the city’s pay is pretty good).

The city should dramatically cut salaries and benefits (such as free parking) in order to provide a huge incentive programs (such as housing and college tuition subsidies) to encourage our employees to actually live here. 

Yale has a very generous homebuyer program and other benefits and partly as a result, most of their employees live within the city limits.

Without doing this, we are basically taxing ourselves in order to subsidize the suburbs. It’s unacceptable that 90% of police officers, for example, don’t live in the city center.

posted by: Jonathan Hopkins on November 10, 2010  10:20am

Zaina Omer,
That completely defeats the purpose of doing school reform, which is to get people to move back into the city.

Embee makes a good point in that the New Haven Promise isn’t going to pursuade suburban families to move to the city without reassurance that the program will be there when their children at 18.
“Low-performing?” also makes a great point. There isn’t a difference between New Haven schools and suburban schools - the teachers are of a similar caliber and the facilities are the same, if not better in New Haven. The difference is the number of children that come from households and communities where education is encouraged and parents are involved. If you put the best performing suburban teacher into a classroom with a bunch of kids that were like me in 7th grade, then the teacher most likely will be too stressed out to teacher to their full potential.

City Hall and Yale need to prepare themselves for a disappointing 2014, because this initiative isn’t going to cut the drop-out rate, or “improve the schools”. However, it is very important that the program be extended after 2014 because it will provide a very real incentive for suburban families to move into the city. The State should also provide more generous tax credits for historic preservation and rehabilitation in urban neighborhoods.
Improvements in education will come when there is a solid student body of children who have actively involved parents at home and in their neighborhood. This has a possibility of happening if the New Haven Promise is continued after 2014.
Kids who graduate high school but don’t go on the college, really isn’t a problem. In my experience, those are the people who immediately seek employment and housing in the city and end up raising children in the city. Kids who go to college typically don’t come back, or if they do, they move to neighborhoods that are already successful and don’t have issues with crime or poverty.
The real problem lies with school drop-outs, who drop out, not because of roadblocks to college, but because of drugs and gangs, which seem more appealing or necessary in the short term. The way to address that is through economic opportunity, constant casual survaillence (eyes on the street), and an improved social atmosphere which would come with a large influx of suburban middle class families to the city’s neighborhoods. Retail and jobs follow the middle class. If they’re in the city, then that’s where stores and businesses will go.
As a result of better neighborhood conditions, more diverse populations and mixed income groups living in close geographic relation, education will automatically improve, crime will drop, unemployment will drop, vacant lots will be built on, abandoned buildings will return to the tax rolls and decades of social degradation will begin to heal itself in the current underclass.

I worry that people think the New Haven Promise will have an immediate positive impact on the city and the schools, which I think is incorrect. It may increase the number of kids going to college, which is good for individuals, but will actually result in more kids leaving New Haven for college and later employment, who otherwise would have gotten jobs, housing and raised families in New Haven after high school. At best, the initiative will have a marginal effect on the drop out rate, because kids drop out for reasons other than their perceived long-term college prospects.
The key to this program will be in attracting families to New Haven’s currently underpopulated neighborhoods, which can be accomplished by extending the program and combining it will historic rehab tax credits.
Robn also makes a good point that this should be paid back, perhaps at no interest.

posted by: Michelle Miller-Adams on November 10, 2010  11:09am

I applaud Yale University’s decision to invest in New Haven Public Schools; however, there are huge differences between this program and “Promise-type” programs in other communities, such as Kalamazoo, which strive to make post-secondary education available to all.

The New Haven Promise’s strict eligibility requirements—particularly the 3.0 high-school GPA requirement, higher than that of any other Promise-type program—effectively excludes much of the student body, and especially those students not already on a college-going path.

It is also inaccurate to imply, as the last paragraph of your story does, that aggressive school reform is missing in Kalamazoo. In fact, the Kalamazoo Promise has sparked a deep, sustained, and multifaceted school improvement effort—something critical to the success of the program.

For more on my thoughts, see my blog, “Realizing the Promise in Kalamazoo,” at

posted by: Elisa on November 10, 2010  11:14am

Student buy-in is crucial for a school system’s success.  This program offers students a concrete reason to pay attention, work hard, and believe in their futures!

Webblog1, there’s no diminished impact; needy students will get the same reward.

4sure, the schools are working hard to promote this program.  The announcement was aimed at freshmen to help them create exactly the type of plan that you propose.  Then, individual schools clarified the requirements and benefits and discussed the program in detail with their students.

Snake oil, this is not a false dream!  If students work hard and believe in their futures, they will receive the financial support they need to go to college.  The Promise doesn’t cover everything, buut it will keep student debt at a manageable level. 

Too many NHPS kids don’t believe they will ever be able to afford college.  Their lack of hope leads to bad choices.  While this program won’t help or save every kid, it gives more students a reason to believe that their education will make a difference in their lives.

posted by: Chris Gray on November 10, 2010  11:30am

Low Performing’s last comment reminds me of when Mrs. Carrie Goodrich Doody allowed me and my childhood trouble-making buddy to sit together after years of separation.  It dramatically improved his grade not because that allowed him to cheat but it gave him someone to help share the thirst for knowledge that she inspired.  He learned!

posted by: Pedro Soto on November 10, 2010  12:03pm

This is fantastic news for New Haven and a great first step. I really hope that past the 4 year program this becomes a permanent fixture of New Haven education.

I disagree with the shortsighted mandate that we require students to come back to New Haven to live after graduation. That would be an artificial barrier that would sap some of the enthusiasm out of the project. “Go to college and live your dreams!....but only if you come back and live 5-10 years in this city, or else we’re going to ask for our money back”

The way you get students to come back to live in this city is to make this city a compelling place to live. There are plenty of structural challenges (e.g. property tax reform) along that route, but just making it a paper requirement isn’t going to help any.

-and just FYI, that above is some “other” Pedro commenting the negative post and not me. I’ve been trying to use my full name for that very reason.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on November 10, 2010  12:11pm

posted by: Elisa on November 10, 2010 10:14am

Snake oil, this is not a false dream!  If students work hard and believe in their futures, they will receive the financial support they need to go to college.  The Promise doesn’t cover everything, buut it will keep student debt at a manageable level.

Snake oil is on the money.this is a false dream.In fact it will be a nightmare.What happens when the money runs out.How come yale does not just give the students free Tuition to go to yale.As I keep saying you are dealing wiht king john and when you deal with king john
you must follow the ace.

posted by: John Tulin on November 10, 2010  1:51pm

A very noble and ambitious idea, lets hope more kids can get into outrageously priced colleges - which is the real problem here, the cost of college!

So much say, so much to ponder still…..but I will say this:  90% attendance is nothing to be proud of, it is simply the bare minimum to receive credit (that allows 17 absences per year!, most students who are absent that often NEVER have a 3.0 nor end up graduating).  So that negates about half of our students, most likely the ones who need the aid the most.

Also, a 3.0 gpa for a basic level class is now worth the same as a honors or AP class - how is that fair?  That’s why they invented QPA, to give the students who succeed at a higher level more credit, which New Haven apparently disregards now.  Another clever way to attack the achievement gap, lower the achievements of the better preforming students. 

Sorry for the cynicism, hoping for the best though.

posted by: RKan on November 10, 2010  1:52pm

This is a very encouraging move.

One question: How much will Emily Byrne be paid to administer this program?

posted by: Elisa on November 10, 2010  6:47pm

In response to John Tulin:

NHPS has recently implemented a weighted GPA that will be used in all New Haven high schools (effective immediately).  This system encourages students to take more challenging courses.

posted by: roomforaview on November 10, 2010  10:18pm

This is a wonderful initiative and a tremendous investment in our city’s future.
It should give the city a boost on many levels. Once again, Rick Levin comes through for New Haven. But sadly the city will still go under as long as the tax-exempts, especially Yale, are given a pass on paying their fair share of taxes. Wealthy corporations like Yale must pay taxes like everybody else if this city is going to have a chance of surviving. How can Yale claim to be an institution commmitted to truth, justice and fairness while continuing to swallow up property that it takes off the tax rolls?
If the city’s lucky, the state kicks a little PILOT chump change our way in return. It’s like Thomas Jefferson, who advocated for equality while keeping slaves. Gov.-Elect Malloy are you listening? President Levin don’t you want to correct this injustice before you leave office?

posted by: A CITY RESIDENT on November 11, 2010  4:04pm

It is sad to read so many comments posted in both the Register and the Independent from readers who resent this initiative to benefit New Haven residents, taxpayers, and public school attendees by encouraging good behavior, school attendance, and academic achievement of any public school student.  For people who have chosen not to live in New Haven or pay City taxes, but do choose to earn their living (sometimes two or three jobs), this will give them something to think about.

I congratulate all those who help to make this possible for those who believe and love this great city and its neighborhoods.

posted by: ASL on November 11, 2010  5:05pm


Damn straight.

posted by: Janis Astor del Valle on November 17, 2010  4:05pm

Quality Education for All

By the end of Waiting for Superman, Davis Guggenheim’s new documentary about America’s failing education system, I – like the parents and students in the film – was trembling on the edge of my seat, heart palpitating, breathlessly awaiting the lottery results, wondering “Which lucky child will make it into the charter school of her/his choice?”

It wasn’t until days, maybe weeks later, that I began thinking the Oscar-winning director had only scratched the surface. A child’s fate should not be decided by a lottery.  Quality education should be available to all families – not only to those who are fortunate enough to have their number drawn, or who can afford to attend private school or live in a community where money talks and policy-makers listen.

I then realized that the real questions I should have been asking at the film’s conclusion were, “Why are our schools failing our children?” And, “What can we do to fix them?” (Our schools, not our children.)

I was heartened by Mayor DeStefano’s announcement earlier this week about New Haven Promise, a program primarily financed by Yale that would pay college tuition for our city’s eligible students – those who maintain a 3.0 GPA and a 90% attendance rate.  But I started to wonder again, “What about the ineligible ones? The ones who are graduating with a third-grade reading level? Or the ones who aren’t graduating at all? How can we help them stay in school and get to a 3.0?”

And again, I found the answer staring me in the face: it’s about strengthening our public schools to ensure that every child receives quality education.

As Executive Director of Youth Rights Media, I am constantly inspired by our youth. Through their work in our Media Lab program, they have built self-confidence, developed leadership and honed video productions skills – but it could not have happened without support from our funders and individual donors.

A highlight of last year’s Media Lab was our youth-produced documentary, Lost in Transition, which premiered at the Yale Art Gallery in June. The film’s critical look at New Haven’s transitional schools is, I believe, one of the reasons why one of the city’s alternative schools realized significant change at the start of this school year.

But perhaps the greatest change occurred within the youth themselves, who learned to find and assert their voices.  Near the film’s end, one of our youth, who attends a transitional school, states:

“As students, we don’t see how much potential and power we have to make change, especially in school…we feel we could, you know, change our friends to do this and change our friends to do that, but when it comes down to education, we really don’t know how strong we are, especially as students.”

“It is hard…because I don’t have all the same resources as a kid in [Wilbur] Cross or a kid in James Hillhouse [New Haven’s mainstream public schools] will have, but at the end of the day, what I do is up to me, how I succeed is up to me.”

But how we help her and all the other young people of our city – of our country –succeed is up to us.  Together, we must strive to make our public schools places where quality education for all is the mandate, and anything less is unacceptable.  We need our youth to feel appreciated, nurtured, challenged and engaged by education, so that truly, no child will be left behind.

posted by: Chris Gray on November 19, 2010  2:17am

The A. Bartlett Giamatti Bench quotes him,in part, “At the heart of a Liberal Arts education is the act of teaching,” in the self-serving way of many educators.  At the heart of any education is the act of learning!

The young people Ms. de Valle has just mentioned have taken a great step forward in learning the power in their hands.  People who want to learn control their own and others’ destinies.  My aspirations may not have been so grand as others, I certainly had less to lose.

If this is a vehicle to inspire kids self-empowerment through learning, fine.  I just want to warn them to learn flexibility in these times with multiple degree holders who are in more trouble than me, yet.