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A child in a Central Texas school completes his work in the presence of a teacher
Insights: Greater Austin

Breaking the cycle of poverty through education

Virginia Potter

Despite enormous investment in education reform, the achievement gap between children living in poverty and their higher-income peers persists, threatening their economic security and that of our Central Texas region. One-fourth of all children in Greater Austin live in poverty, and the U.S. Department of Education finds that low-income students are seven times less likely to attend college than their more affluent peers, regardless of ability.

Locally, E3 Alliance’s data analysis shows that college enrollment rates for low-income students in Central Texas have remained flat even while the low-income population soars. Right here in our backyard, 39 percent of Central Texas low-income students enroll in college, and only 68 percent of those students persist in college beyond their first year, according to the Ray Marshall Center. And if students only attend college part time — to work to support themselves or their family — that percentage drops below half.

We know the magnitude of these issues cannot not be solved by a single organization; rather it takes schools, community-based organizations, and others working together to drive change at an accelerated rate. Given our foundation’s mission of transforming the lives of children living in poverty through a better education, it is vital to help provide a level playing field with urgency. Until the entire system can be improved, we need to provide children with the tools to be confident in their abilities to be academically successful, thereby breaking the cycle of poverty for them and their families.

Supporting organizations dissatisfied with the status quo

We have committed to supporting those who want to make a difference in children’s lives through a quality education. We work with school districts and community service providers to provide:

  • Support for getting students to and through college
  • Reading, writing, and math tutoring
  • Social-emotional coaching to help students with life challenges that might hinder their academics
  • Authentic learning experiences in math and science
  • Connections to community members for career pathways
  • Development of new ways to support students as the education environment evolves
  • Organizational growth to serve more students as demand for services grow
  • Access to data and analyses for improvement at multiple levels: program, campus, or district

While our partners are making an impact in Central Texas, the demand for their services is increasing and the complexities surrounding educational attainment continue to rise. Our partners are seen as leaders in their work and are often recognized at the national level for the successes they’ve had in serving children. Nelson Mandela once said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”  Our partners believe this and live it every day. They employ a whatever-it-takes attitude to provide quality education programs and services each day. They know what works — they push for change in lean environments because they want to see lasting results for students.

Beyond four walls

One of the many things we love about our partners is that they are willing to take responsibility for impacting not only the students in their programs and schools, but also those in the broader community. Some of the best results we see come from collaboration and risk-taking.

Whether they are unlocking access to data to make programmatic decisions for services for students, or crafting campus improvement plans with data to help streamline operations, or specialty schools designed to meet community needs, or cultivating a child’s ability to read (sometimes in two languages!), they are leaving an indelible mark on our community’s ability to foster learning for all, especially ones with limited opportunities. Our partners ensure that the playing field is leveled, unlocking the potential for students and their educators to make Central Texas the best place to be for a high-quality education.