By Maia Hill 

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, New Jersey students are still experiencing poor state test score results. In the first post-pandemic statewide assessment test (the 2021-2022 academic school year) scores fell to the lowest in five years according to the state Department of Education. There was a drastic drop in statewide math and reading scores and these outcomes revealed educational disparities between inner-cities and suburban school districts, highlighting how a lack of quality school resources prohibits academic success. For districts with high rates of Black and Latino and low-income students, the test scores indicate these students are well below the state requirement.  

With test scores declining, New Jersey is exploring ways to implement more support for students. For example, the Expanding Access to High-Impact Tutoring Act of 2023 bill by Rep. Mikie Sherrill (D-11th Dist.) proposes a grant program funding schools to pay tutors to meet with students three times a week.  

Additionally, New Jersey has existing community programs that specifically target the educational outcomes of low-income and minority students. Some of these programs include:  New Jersey GEAR UP, Newark Youth Careers Pathways (NYCP), Rutgers Newark Center for PreCollege Program, My Brothers Keeper-Newark, Rutgers Camden Ignite, Leaders For Life Inc, and B.O.S.S Mentoring.  Research suggests that initiatives that build trusted partnerships with schools, parents, and communities have a positive impact on educational outcomes of Black students. This summer, I have conducted a literature review exploring the types of community-based partnerships that enhance educational outcomes for Black students.  

Research on community-based partnerships is limited in scope; however, literature points to key benefits for Black students’ achievement when parents, schools, organizations, and other community stakeholders work together to invest in students’ educational experience. Key findings from my literature review include:  

  • Hill and Tyson (2009), found that three types of parental involvement are positively correlated to achievement: 
    1. Academic socialization  
    2. School-based involvement  
    3. Home-based involvement  
  • Bryan (2005), found that positive relationships between schools and families in many urban schools are infrequent because parents often do not trust the schools. School professionals, in turn, do not trust minority and low-income families and communities.  
  •  Barrett (2009), found that religious involvement has been considered a proactive factor in fostering prosocial behavior and higher achievement among urban adolescents.  
  • Grinseki (2003), found that low-income youth in a Minnesota State University mentorship program experienced feelings of wellbeing, enjoyment in the after-school program, and increased confidence in their ability to contribute to their community. 

 While New Jersey has initiatives that support better educational outcomes for minority and low-income students, these programs cannot be left to schools and local and state governments to run. As the saying goes, “it takes a village,” and it will take broader community support to sufficiently invest in our neighborhoods, schools, and families to see the progress in student educational outcomes.  

Maia Hill is a graduate student in the Edward J. Bloustein School of Public Planning and Policy at Rutgers University and she is working towards a master’s degree in Public Policy. Maia was also a part of the NJSPL’s 2023 Summer Internship Program.