Child Welfare


For Immediate Release
June 14, 2011 

For More Information Contact:
Patti Hassler
Vice President of Communications and Outreach
202-662-3554 office


Achievement Gaps Symposium on Positioning Young Black Boys For Educational Success Spotlight on the Children’s Defense Fund Freedom Schools® Program

Washington, D.C. (June 14, 2011) – Leading educators, researchers, and policy experts gathered in Washington, D.C., today for an achievement gap symposium to confront the crisis facing the 3.5 million Black boys from birth to age nine and to highlight programs that are having an impact. The symposium co-sponsored by Education Testing Service (ETS) and the Children’s Defense Fund (CDF), A Strong Start: Positioning Young Black Boys For Educational Success, addressed the daunting achievement gap many incorrectly believe too big to solve.

Both organizations and many leaders in the room believe targeted and sustained efforts with an evidence-based approach to education and early childhood development could change the trajectory for young Black boys and all underserved children. “Now is the time to act with urgency”, says Marian Wright Edelman, president of CDF. “When 40 percent of Black children are born into poverty and a Black boy born in 2001 has a one-in-three chance of going to prison in his lifetime, we need to invest in the education programs and supports we know can help young Black boys stay out of the cradle to prison pipeline and stay in the pipeline to college and a productive future. But the critical programs and supports we know can close achievement gaps are on the chopping block in statehouses around the country and in our nation’s capital. We need to protect our children from these grave threats and invest in their futures; our country’s future depends on it.”

“This symposium represents a turning point for America, a renewed focus by ETS on early childhood education, and hopefully elevated attention and upward educational achievement trends for youngBlack boys throughout the country. It is no longer enough for us to only study the achievement gaps, we need to take action to close the achievement gaps,” says Michael Nettles, senior vice president of ETS’s Policy Evaluation and Research Center. “We need more successful interventions such as those featured at the symposium including the CDF Freedom Schools® program that staunches summer learning loss and helps close achievement gaps.”

The CDF Freedom Schools program trains college-aged young adults to provide quality summer and after-school enrichment through a model integrated reading curriculum that supports children and families through five essential components: high quality academic enrichment, parent and family involvement; social action and civic engagement; intergenerational servant leadership development; and nutrition and mental health. Since 1995, the CDF Freedom Schools program has reached about 90,000 low-income children and 9,000 college students have been trained to serve them as teachers and mentors. This summer the CDF Freedom Schools program spans 88 cities and 26 states, and last week trained 1,200 college servant leaders and adult site coordinators to serve about 10,000 children at 151 sites based in community centers, churches, schools, colleges, and four juvenile detention centers.

ETS will underwrite a unique CDF Freedom Schools program with a grant to Communities in Schools of New Jersey. The $77,000 grant will support a program designed specifically for Black boys in grades three through eight living in Newark, N.J. “The Great Expectations Freedom School will make a difference in the lives of Black boys by surrounding them with a dynamic network of young Black male teachers, leaders and mentors trained to engage them in a proven summer enrichment model,” explains Gwendolyn Corrin, president and state director of Communities in Schools of New Jersey. “We greatly appreciate ETS’s support.”

Dr. Jeanne Middleton-Hairston, national director of the CDF Freedom Schools program says, “This CDF Freedom Schools site holds so much promise for young Black boys in Newark where 78 percent of Black fourth-graders cannot read at grade level. We have seen how our CDF Freedom Schools program can not only stop summer learning loss but also help children and youth improve their reading comprehension.”

Other evidence-based programs featured at the symposium include the Delta Early Learning Program in Indianola, Miss., which intervenes before birth and provides home visiting services to mitigate early cognitive gaps due in large part to the lottery of birth – being born into poverty. Dr. Cathy Grace, CDF director of early childhood development says, “Programs like the Delta Early Learning Program in Indianola are critical to give poor Black boys a head start in life. Children do not come in pieces, and we need to nurture children and families during the critical early years when we can positively impact brain development to level the playing field, close the achievement gaps and position children for a lifetime of learning. We need to create a seamless continuum of development and quality educational experience from birth through graduation.”

The symposium will highlight two successful school districts, the Bremerton School District in Washington state, and the Montgomery Country Public Schools, the largest and most diverse school system in Maryland and the 16th largest school district in the country. Both have implemented seamless early childhood programs through third grade that have proven effective in reducing achievement gaps and dramatically increasing the graduation rates for all children including Black boys.

Montgomery County Public Schools now has a 90 percent graduation rate for all children. Both programs include full-day kindergarten. As the former early childhood coordinator for the Mississippi Department of Education, Dr. Cathy Grace directed the statewide implementation of public school kindergarten and has advised governors and policymakers across the Southeast on early childhood development. Grace says, “We want to encourage states to adopt this seamless pre-kindergarten for three-year-olds through third grade approach. But right now only 10 states by law require that all school districts offer full-day kindergarten. This is a major gap. All children should have equal access to a quality education.”

CDF and ETS hope by identifying programs, policies and strategies that work, it will be possible to rewrite the story for young Black boys and replace the cradle to prison pipeline with a pipeline to college, work and a productive life.

About ETS
At nonprofit ETS, we advance quality and equity in education for people worldwide by creating assessments based on rigorous research. ETS serves individuals, educational institutions and government agencies by providing customized solutions for teacher certification, English language learning, and elementary, secondary and post-secondary education, as well as conducting education research, analysis and policy studies. Founded in 1947, ETS develops, administers and scores more than 50 million tests annually — including the TOEFL® and TOEIC® tests, the GRE® tests and The Praxis Series™ assessments — in more than 180 countries, at over 9,000 locations worldwide.

About the CDF 
The Children’s Defense Fund Leave No Child Behind® mission is to ensure every child a Healthy Start, a Head Start, a Fair Start, a Safe Start and a Moral Start in life and successful passage to adulthood with the help of caring families and communities. CDF provides a strong, effective and independent voice for all the children of America who cannot vote, lobby or speak for themselves. We pay particular attention to the needs of poor and minority children and those with disabilities. CDF educates the nation about the needs of children and encourages preventive investments before they get sick, drop out of school, get into trouble or suffer family breakdown. CDF began in 1973 and is a private, nonprofit organization supported by foundation and corporate grants and individual donations.