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Amplifying Education: Closing the Achievement Gap

Posted: 01/29/2012 9:09 pm

From the civil rights movement of the 1960s to the civil rights issue of our generation -- creating educational excellence and equity for students growing up in poverty -- it's incredible to see our youngest leaders making remarkable change in our nation. Just as young people fueled the movement for racial equality 50 years ago, young people today are taking on important leadership roles in the movement to change the reality that kids growing up in low-income communities are less likely to receive the kind of education that will set them up for success in college and in life.

As we took time to reflect on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s legacy earlier this month, we were reminded of the work still left undone in the fight for civil rights. There are more than 16 million children growing up in poverty in this country, but only eight percent of these kids will graduate from college. Fourth graders in low-income communities are already three grade levels behind their more affluent peers. Half of these students won't graduate from high school and those who do graduate will read and do math, on average, at an eighth grade level.

We know it doesn't have to be this way, and a growing number of young people are committing to close this educational opportunity gap. As we've toured cities around the country this year, we've been awed by the inspiring level of support fans have shown for our initiative to address educational inequity, Amplifying Education.

Amplifying Education (AmpEd) has engaged 542 volunteers in 3,432 hours of service to improve our nation's schools, collected over 10,000 books to support New Orleans Recovery School District libraries, and interacted with tens of thousands of fans at our Amplifying Education Non-Profit Village. In partnership with our incredible fans, we raised over $250,000 through a portion of ticket sales, benefit shows, and nearly $20,000 through fan-to-fan outreach shows to support:

a founding team of nine City Year Denver corps members, who are serving one-on-one with students at the Rachel B. Noel Middle School to improve attendance, behavior, and course performance;

providing instruments -- in partnership with Guitar Center -- for the new music room at The Waterside School, an independent day school providing a rigorous academic and moral education to children regardless of circumstances; and

120 Teach for America teachers working in six regions -- the Bay Area, Denver, Chicago, Greater Atlanta, Greater Boston, Los Angeles, and Newark -- to give their students the excellent education that will transform their life trajectory.

We launched the AmpEd campaign because we know that every individual plays an important role in building an unstoppable movement for change. For too long, a child's zip code has defined their educational destiny. But, with a collaborative, all-hands-on-deck approach, educational inequity is a solvable problem. With the commitment of educators, leaders across sectors, and your generation, we can give all of our children an excellent education.

As a continuation of MLK Day of Service, we challenge and commit to joining you in the effort to give every child, regardless of family income, the high-quality education they deserve. Start a dialogue at your college; organize a book drive to support New Orleans Recovery School District libraries; volunteer to be a reader, tutor or mentor with United Way and curb our nation's drop-out crisis; give a year and change the world with City Year; or apply to teach through Teach For America and make an incredible difference in a child's life.

By taking simple yet powerful actions, we can each make our mark on the nation's future by expanding educational opportunity for every student. In these uncertain economic times, our nation's highest-need kids need our leadership now more than ever. As Dr. King said, "Everybody can be great because anybody can serve." How will you make your mark?

Brad Corrigan, Pete Francis, and Chad Stokes are members of the band DISPATCH and founders of Amplifying Education.