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Need & Impact

Why We Serve

The Need

Despite long-term and ongoing efforts to close the opportunity gap between disadvantaged and advantaged students, low-income students continue to perform at considerably lower levels than their higher-income peers in literacy and mathematics. While 77% of students from households in the highest income quintile graduate from college by age 24, only 9% of students from the lowest income quintile do so. Academic achievement in 8th grade has “a larger impact on [students’] college… readiness… than anything that happens in high school” (ACT 2008). More than half of the achievement gap between lower- and higher-income youth can be explained by unequal access to summer learning opportunities. In fact, a John Hopkins University study attributes as much as 65% of the 9th grade achievement gap to a phenomenon called “summer slide,” where low-income students experience an average two-month loss in math and reading skills over the summer while their more affluent peers, with access to out-of-school educational resources, continue to make learning gains. According to the Alabama Accountability Act in 2019,16 of the 75 schools listed as “failing” are in the Birmingham school district.

The Impact

The work that we do is intentionally designed to impact the community we serve. Breakthrough students are seven times more likely to graduate from a four-year college or university than students from similar economic backgrounds. On average, Breakthrough students attend college at a rate that’s eleven percent points higher than their low-income peers.*

While students from Birmingham City Schools enter college at a rate of 54%, our first graduating Breakthrough Birmingham class (2019) immediately entered college at 64% — a full ten percentage points higher than the BCS average, and 2 percentage points higher than the state of Alabama.

We know we have work to do and we’re committed to that work because it directly impacts our students’ lives, their families, and the entire social and economic landscape of Birmingham for the better. For more information, check out our Impact Report.


*U.S. Department of Commerce, Census Bureau, Current Population Survey (CPS), October, 1975 through 2015. Digest of Education Statistics (2017). Table 302.3

Breakthrough Collaborative

180 Grand Ave #1225, Oakland, CA 94612, USA