“I believe the Church needs to recognize that the solution to the achievement gap in Boston isn’t simply a bigger budget for BPS, or better teachers and administrators and policies. The solution is a stronger, more integrated village, which must include a Church that is seeking the welfare of the city…”
This week, Pastor Barry Kang is our guest blogger. Barry is the Lead Pastor of Symphony Church (which meets in two locations in Boston) and is on the directional team for Greater Things for Greater Boston, a network of churches committed to joining the greater things of Jesus in Boston. He lives in Arlington with his wife, Sunny and two boys, Caleb and Micah. He shares about the value of churches getting involved with local schools, and the unique opportunity right now to share feedback with Dr. Brenda Cassellius, the new Superintendent of BPS.
When I was in seminary many years ago, I heard a statistic that rocked my world. I learned that there was a high correlation between 3rd grade literacy and future incarceration. This makes sense. Until the 3rd grade, children learn to read. From the 3rd grade on, children read in order to learn. If you can’t read at 3rd grade, the rest of life becomes that much more difficult. Here’s the thing: no one learns to read by themselves. No one graduates from high school or goes to college by themselves. It takes a complex system of support systems and those who have more and better support systems generally are more successful in life. A popular African saying goes, “It takes a village to raise a child,” recognizing that the pathway from childhood to maturity isn’t a path walked individually, but one that requires communal support – such as families, teachers, friends, and other social institutions, including of course, the Church.
The city of Boston is of course much larger than a village and the complexity of raising a child ramps up almost exponentially. It shouldn’t surprise us that educational outcomes in Boston also show much more variance than in smaller, more affluent communities. Children in Boston experience greater disparity in their support systems than do children in wealthier suburbs (some equal or greater, but many much lower). I believe the Church needs to recognize that the solution to the achievement gap in Boston isn’t simply a bigger budget for BPS, or better teachers and administrators and policies. The solution is a stronger, more integrated village…which must include a Church that is seeking the welfare of the city (Jeremiah 29:7); loves its neighbor as itself (Mark 12:31); is praying for God’s will to be done on earth as it is in heaven (Matthew 6:10) and actively living out the Gospel of Jesus Christ, going to the highways and byways to invite the marginalized into the fullness of the kingdom (Luke 14:15-24).
For the past four years, Symphony Church has had the privilege of being one of a number of church-school partnerships within BPS.
Most of the students in our partner school live outside of the school neighborhood. As such, it is difficult for their parents to be involved in the daily life of the school given the distance. Many of the students are from non-English speaking households and so aren’t able to receive the same level of literacy support at home. This is a school filled with a dedicated and competent staff, backed by a budget that is higher (on a per student basis) than for suburban schools and all the resources of the BPS system, but they can’t do it alone. It takes a village. A school system can’t be the entire village. A family can’t be the entire village. Most churches can’t be the entire village…but we can and must be part of one.
On Tuesday, October 1st, pastors and church leaders will have an opportunity to meet with Dr. Brenda Cassellius, the new Superintendent of BPS. Given the complexity of BPS, she has a huge task ahead of her and she can’t do it alone. Dr. Cassellius and BPS will need more than our prayers. Raising a child in Boston will take the whole village which includes the whole Church. I’ll be attending this gathering and I hope you will join me.