Closing the Gap For a More Equitable Future, Together
Author: Morgan Howard
Published: Thursday, 04 Nov 2021
Image caption: TowneBank Opportunity HQ in Camp North End (Charlotte, NC)
Beginning this fall, we will adopt an “equity first” approach to how we educate students. Schools with a 50% or higher population of students receiving free and reduced lunch will be able to participate in JACC’s K-12 programming at no cost.
With this change, our intent is to remove any financial barriers for students in low socioeconomic communities so they have access to financial education, valuable tools and mentorship that they otherwise might not.
“Equity isn’t handing a kid a laptop. It’s knowing the systemic conditions that led to the lack of the laptop and working to mitigate them.” – Ericka Garcia, Educator
Closing the Achievement Gap
The effects of Covid-19 have impacted us all, the magnitude of which is still being calculated especially within the education sector. Students, teachers and parents everywhere have had to adjust to new learning environments and models but if you zoom in and consider those from low-socioeconomic backgrounds, the challenges are even greater.
Data from Opportunity Insights shows that Charlotte, NC schools saw lower levels in student engagement and academic progress than almost every other large metropolitan area in the country. In addition, students from low- and middle-income households were significantly less likely to participate in virtual learning compared to students from affluent households (Opportunity Insights).
These insights, combined with other unsettling data, helped us re-shape our delivery model to ensure we are part of the solution to closing the achievement gap. This new “Equity First” model will be implemented in the 52 counties across North Carolina and parts of South Carolina that we currently serve.
Image caption: Research on social networks by income level from Brookings (2020)
Building Stronger Social Networks
How was money discussed in your home growing up? Who taught you about opening a checking or savings account or why budgeting is important?
We recognize that while some students are having conversations in their homes or with adults in their lives, others may not be. Research shows that access to social networks and financial education is even more inaccessible for those in under-resourced neighborhoods (Brookings).
If our organization can provide those valuable resources, there is an opportunity to change the outcome.
Junior Achievement’s hands-on curriculum may be the first place a student learns about budgeting, writing a check or preparing for a job interview. Thanks to our generous corporate sponsors, middle-school students can visit JA BizTown® and JA Finance Park® to experience interactive simulations that reinforce the education being delivered in the classroom. And to further strengthen these lessons, corporate and community volunteers are there every step of the way to provide support, direction and expose students to a variety of career pathways.
We’re In This Together
When equity leads, transformation follows. Our Equity First model was born from the understanding of the current achievement gap and lack of diverse social networks affecting low-income communities. By removing the financial barriers that were preventing low-income schools from accessing our curriculum we can intentionally reach students that may have been missing out before.
How can you support with our new Equity First model? Take the L.E.A.D. with Junior Achievement of Central Carolinas. You can be the key to a student’s brighter tomorrow.