Leading funders join Mayor Menino, Boston Public Schools to build a historic educational partnership

Unique collaboration supports a pipeline strategy for opportunity

June 21, 2010

Boston— The City of Boston and the Boston School Department along with Greater Boston’s leading public charities and philanthropic foundations have teamed up to form the Boston Opportunity Agenda, a historic partnership created to make Boston the premier city of upward mobility where all can achieve greater opportunity. This is the first time in the country that funders have committed significant investment to support an education pipeline that spans the full range of services from early childhood care and education, out-of-school time, parent engagement through post-secondary achievement.

Partners in this unprecedented venture, in addition to the City of Boston and Boston Public Schools include the Boston Foundation, Catholic Charities Archdiocese of Boston, Combined Jewish Philanthropies , the United Way of Massachusetts Bay and the Merrimack Valley, the Barr Foundation, The Beal Companies, Eos Foundation, the Myra & RobertKraft Family Foundation, the Nellie Mae Educational Foundation and New Profit Inc.

The Boston Opportunity Agenda was announced today at an event held at the Lilla G. Frederick Pilot Middle School in Dorchester, hosted by Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino and Boston School Superintendent Carol R. Johnson. All the partners, who have committed an initial $27 million to the project, were represented, as well as leaders from the region’s civic, business and nonprofit sectors. This included Robert Beal, President of The Beal Companies, who first proposed a broad collaboration of leading philanthropic organizations. At the event, Beal announced a financial commitment of $250,000 to the Boston Opportunity Agenda, inviting other area businesses to join in the effort.

“The Boston Opportunity Agenda supports a comprehensive education pipeline, connecting the incredible network of resources already available in Boston to provide every child with a seamless educational experience,” said Mayor Menino. “By sharing information and surrounding our youth with a network of seamless support services, we can close the achievement gap and set a new standard for urban education.”

“The best way to achieve excellence is to build on the strengths that we already possess,” said Carol R. Johnson, Boston School Superintendent. “This Boston Opportunity Agenda takes the results of many years of Education Reform and adds an unprecedented array of civic, philanthropic and business allies to provide enough muscle to make good on an ambitious promise.”

Goals and benchmarks

The partners in the Boston Opportunity Agenda have announced the following primary goals and benchmarks:

  •  A solid early educational foundation for learning  so that every young child is ready to excel in school;
  •  Students across the system consistently on track for high school graduation;
  •  High school graduation as a standard measure of achievement; and
  •  Post secondary attainment, including an associate’s degree equivalent or higher.

“The overarching goal is to make Boston a place defined by upward mobility,” said Paul S. Grogan, President and CEO of the Boston Foundation. “Today we know that an excellent education will change the trajectory of students’ lives, restoring access to the American Dream to a new generation of urban youth. The news from Boston is that this broad array of partners can come together with great singleness of purpose to make this culture of opportunity a reality.”

“The power of this collaboration is that all partner investments are being applied to shared goals, initiative and outcomes, an alignment that will multiply the impact the funds will make in the community,” said Michael Durkin, President of the United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley. “Strategically investing our collective resources in established, well-researched initiatives will enable us to accomplish more than any of us can alone.”

The work will be aligned with the Acceleration Agenda, a five-year strategic plan for student achievement that is now in place inside the Boston Public Schools.

“The idea of a pipeline reflects the need for a comprehensive system that connects each part of a young student’s educational life, from very early age when children need to get ready to learn, through to the post-school training and acquiring of credentials needed to flourish in an increasingly demanding job market,” said Tiziana Dearing, President of Catholic Charities Archdiocese of Boston.


The work of preparing the Boston Opportunity Agenda has been developed in recent years as it has grown increasingly clear where gaps in the system existed and how effective a collaborative approach could be. This is the first time in the country that funders have come together to make significant investments in a shared set of educational initiatives.

The partners have committed their organizations to take a leading role to ensure that initiatives created to achieve the priorities of the Boston Opportunity Agenda have the resources needed to succeed. Investments will be funded directly by the partners, with each one investing in initiatives most aligned with its work and mission. In addition, the partners have pledged to raise additional funds from private and public sources as that is needed.

“As funders, we will be focused on aggressive and achievable goals and we will be looking for ways to bring improvements into the system and extend proven strategies widely, by influencing public policy as well as the private funding community,” said Barry Shrage, President of the Combined Jewish Philanthropies.

A pipeline strategy for education

The Boston Opportunity Agenda uses data to measure accomplishments and establishes clear goals to reinforce accountability among all organizations. These shared goals will unite community partners with the Boston Public Schools to achieve greater student success.

Here are some of the goals and current standings in the four areas articulated for the pipeline.

A Solid Education Foundation has as a goal that by 2014 75 percent of Boston children will enter Boston Public Schools with age-appropriate literacy skills. In 2009, 54 percent of local children entered Kindergarten with that skill set. In addition, by 2014, 85 percent of children will achieve proficiency on the English Language Assessment MCAS test for third graders. In 2009, 77 percent of BPS third graders passed the English Language Assessment with 31 percent achieving proficiency.

The priority initiative for this part of the Agenda is Thrive in 5, a city-wide partnership created by United Way and the City of Boston and now in place to support children’s early learning and school readiness.

On Track for High School Graduation anticipates that by 2014, 80 percent of BPS eighth graders will earn a B or better in Algebra 1 or Math 8 and at least 40 percent of non-exam school students will be enrolled in Algebra 1. The current status for BPS students shows 10 percent of Algebra 1 students achieving a B or above. Only 4 percent of non-exam students took Algebra 1 in the 2009-2010 school year.

The priority initiative for this part of the Agenda is a new Boston summer learning partnership between BPS, Boston After School and Beyond, and other nonprofits to stop summer learning loss and to model enhanced year-round learning.

High School Completion expects that by 2014 the Boston Public Schools will have a four-year graduation rate of 80 percent and an annual dropout rate of 3 percent or lower, with recent dropouts enrolled in high school equivalency programs. Currently, the four-year graduation rate is just over 61 percent and the annual dropout rate is 6.4 percent.

The priority initiative of this part of the Boston Opportunity Agenda is Success Boston, a partnership of Boston Public Schools, local colleges and other community-based organizations, to help local students get ready for college, get into college and complete a college degree.

Post-Secondary Attainment sets as a Boston Opportunity Agenda goal having 70 percent of all Boston Public School graduates obtain an associate degree equivalent or higher. Currently, 35.5 percent of the BPS Class of 2000 completed two- or four-year post-secondary degrees.

Challenges to be addressed in this initiative include the need to provide additional training for the 54 percent of Bostonians over the age of 25 who hold less than an associate’s degree at a time when 40 percent of jobs require more than a high school diploma.

In addition, a system-wide path linking 29 separate state-funded Adult Basic Education programs in Boston will be developed to strengthen the existing network of programs currently provided, and the supply of program seats for those seeking English Language training will be strengthened.

An advisory board will be created drawing members for the partner organizations, and The Boston Opportunity Agenda will hire an Executive Director to oversee the work going forward. This position will be housed at the Boston Foundation. The initiative will work closely with the Boston Public Schools and the Boston Indicators Project, to convene an annual meeting that will review progress and prioritize future strategic investments.

Visit the website of the Boston Opportunity Agenda.