We don’t build schools or train teachers. Instead, PennCAN runs results-oriented advocacy campaigns through:

Research & Policy

PennCAN’s original reports and briefs provide the in-depth analysis of public education in Pennsylvania that is the foundation for our policy recommendations.

Communications & Mobilization

PennCAN creates informed citizens with a commitment to commonsense education reform through a combination of media work, electronic communications and social networking, publications, on-the-ground community organizing, partnerships with like-minded civic and community groups and events. Then, we make it easy for Pennsylvania’s growing cadre of education reform advocates to take meaningful and impactful action through our e-advocacy system.

Advocacy for Policy Change

Grounded in our research and policy work, PennCAN teams with our citizen advocates and key state officials to develop and enact concrete, meaningful education reforms through both legislative and administrative action.

Why Schools?

It’s simple really. PennCAN is dedicated to education reform because we know that Great Schools Change Everything.

Great Schools Change Economics

This is about our bottom line and our future as a prosperous country. McKinsey & Company found in a 2009 report that America’s achievement gaps “impose on the United States the economic equivalent of a permanent national recession.” If the gap between the academic performance of low-income students and their wealthier peers were closed, GDP in 2008 would have been $400 billion to $670 billion higher, or three to five percent of GDP. College graduates can expect to earn, on average, nearly a million dollars more over their lifetimes than high school graduates. Great schools can rebuild our economy and put the next generation on a prosperous path once again.

Great Schools Change America’s Standing

Thirty years ago, the United States was the world leader in educational attainment, but the United States has fallen to 18th of 26 industrialized countries in the proportion of students who graduate from high school and 14th out of 26 in the proportion of adults with college degrees. American fifteen-year-olds rank 14th of 34 industrialized countries in reading literacy, 17th of 34 countries in science, and 25th of 34 countries in mathematics literacy. Great schools are what propelled America forward in the last century and they are what will propel us forward again in this one.

Great Schools Change Dreams

We need only look at the story of Julius Bennett from New Haven, Connecticut. Julius was struggling at his old school and in danger of being placed in a special education program. Then he transferred to Amistad Academy, where he thrived, becoming one of the top students and scoring in the 93rd percentile on his PSATs. Now Julius is a sophomore studying at Bates College on a full-ride scholarship. Or take Andres Idarraga from Pawtucket, Rhode Island. Andres was jailed on drug charges, eventually earning his GED in prison and gaining admittance to Brown University. At Brown his dreams expanded. He wants to improve education for all kids because he knows how it can change dreams. He just graduated from Yale Law School. Great schools allow kids to dream of anything and have the confidence that they can achieve what they set their minds to.

Great Schools Change Democracies

We can’t be a truly representative democracy if we’re leaving behind great swaths of our poor and minority children. The latest scores on the “nation’s report card” for civics show that less than two-thirds of all high school seniors possess a basic understanding of our democratic system of government. This trend continues into adulthood: A 2011 Newsweek survey found that 38 percent of Americans would fail the basic U.S. citizenship test. Just over half of all high school dropouts in the U.S. vote, while 67 percent of high school graduates and 84 percent of college graduates do. As Thomas Jefferson said, “If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be.” Great schools can feed a vibrant, informed and representative democracy.

Great Schools Change Health

People who continue their education after high school have an average life expectancy that is seven years longer than people who discontinue their education with high school. Sadly, babies born to less educated women are more likely to die during their first year. Obesity is linked to lower levels of education, too. Great schools teach people healthier behaviors and allow them to better consume medical information to live healthier, more productive, happier lives.

Great Schools Change Communities

Education isn’t just about one person; the effects reach the entire community. Almost 75 percent of state inmates have not completed high school when they enter prison, compared to about 16 percent of young Americans overall. Fewer than three percent of inmates have completed college. One study found that a ten-percent increase in the male graduation rate would reduce murder and assault arrest rates by about 20 percent, motor vehicle theft by 13 percent, and arson by eight percent. Great schools can put kids on a path to college instead of jail and change the hopes and realities of an entire community.