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Buffalo earns 'bronze' on Loving Cities report on supporting kids

Buffalo could do more to offer students an advanced high school curriculum or a gifted and talented program in elementary school.

The city’s children, however, do have strong access to health care, public transit and support services.

In fact, Buffalo was better than average – enough to earn a “bronze” – when considering two dozen key social and economic indicators needed to help students learn and narrow the gap in academic achievement.

Those are some of the findings in a new report out Wednesday from the Schott Foundation for Public Education.

The Massachusetts-based foundation looked closely at 10 cities across the United States – Buffalo among them – to evaluate how well they are  providing children the supports and opportunities they need to learn and succeed.

Schott used 24 indicators – such as health care, livable wages, affordable housing, access to parks and healthy foods – to develop its “Loving Cities Index” and a score for each city, 80 percent being the “platinum standard.”

Buffalo earned a “bronze” score of 50 percent, third behind only Minneapolis and Long Beach, both at 52 percent.

The other cities included in the study were Baltimore; Denver; Springfield, Mass.; Little Rock; Chicago; Philadelphia; and Charlotte.

The report challenges the notion that school reform alone is enough to provide students a fair opportunity to learn. Instead, it ties success in high school and college to stronger social and economic supports and opportunities.

“We have known for far too long that high learning standards and standardized testing alone won’t eliminate our opportunity gaps,” John H. Jackson, president and CEO of the Schott Foundation, said in a prepared statement.

“Yet for more than three decades,” Jackson said, “too many city, state and federal systems continue to implement and institute policies that primarily focus on common standards and accountability without providing students in need and their families with a set of common resources and supports, which give them the opportunities needed to succeed.”

The report highlighted Buffalo’s efforts to boost physical activity among students, as well as gain access to mental health services and healthy food options.

The school district, however, still shows high levels of suspensions, particularly among black students, the report said.

It also noted that economic integration in Buffalo schools is among the lowest of the 10 cities studied.

“In addition to recommitting to school integration, Buffalo can focus on broader community integration by increasing access to affordable housing options in higher income neighborhoods and access to grocery stores, particularly for communities of color,” the report said.

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