Are We Failing to Prepare Children for Success?

Greater Saint John Business Leaders are calling upon the Government of New Brunswick and all party candidates to help improve education outcomes in Saint John.

  • 22% of Saint John children are not achieving Grade 2 literacy standards (NB Dept. of Education and Early Childhood), yet Early Literacy is fundamental to school and life success.
  • 50% of high school students living in Saint John’s low income neighbourhoods do not graduate within 4 years. (Business Community Anti-Poverty Initiative)
  • 28% of children (aged 0 to 17 years) live in poverty in Saint John. (Statistics Canada)

Investing public resources in new ways to improve education outcomes delivers proven returns on investment, now and in the future. Investment in childhood education yields a prepared and ready workforce; builds strong, stable communities; and significantly reduces government costs caused by lifelong poverty.

A child’s education is the most powerful predictor of their success in life. Such success is what leads to an educated and ready workforce, which is essential for communities to thrive. For this reason and more, educational achievement for every child is a Saint John priority.

The consequences for students who do not succeed in school are devastating. The impacts are life long and hurt the entire community and province –socially and economically. In Saint John, the root of the problem lies in the significant Education Achievement Gap, for which low income children are especially vulnerable.

Global research is compelling and tells us that the Education Achievement Gap begins during the earliest years of life and has a devastating cumulative effect, which, without extra help, continues to grow as a child falls further behind each year in school. This is unacceptable, unnecessary and fixable!

We can and must nurture the talents of every child to ensure their educational achievements, from cradle to career.

Over the past decade, Greater Saint John businesses, community organizations and volunteers have partnered with schools, the School District and Department of Education to help low- income parents enrich their child’s education – both in and out of school. Working together, we have achieved amazing success in developing and implementing real, measurable solutions. One telling result: The students who live in Saint John’s low income neighbourhoods have increased their early literacy scores by 24% compared to the district average of 6% (2009-2014).

The Early Learning Centre, PALS (Partners Assisting Local Schools), ELF (Early Literacy Friends), P.R.O. Kids, the Teen Resource Centre, First Steps, Promise Partnership and En Route to Success are some examples of Saint John’s commitment to helping children succeed, from cradle to career. As a community, together, we are paving the way for brighter futures for many vulnerable students.

Saint John has proven solutions, but we need the help of the Government of New Brunswick to sustain and expand this work. A sense of urgency is needed and we must refuse to fail – because in failing, we are failing our children, and the future of our city and province.

Greater Saint John Business Leaders implore our elected officials, all political parties and government staff across departments, to make education — from early learning to high school completion — a provincial priority and help Saint John scale up our solutions to close the education achievement gap.

Specifically, BCAPI wants the Government of New Brunswick and all parties and candidates to acknowledge the serious Education Achievement Gap that exists in Saint John, particularly for low-income children and their families; and to:

  1. Actively agree to work with Saint John to close the Education Achievement Gap for children who are struggling and their schools and neighbourhoods that require extra resources.
  2. Make early childhood education and early literacy an immediate priority.
  3. Achieve ambitious targets, measure progress and publicly communicate results to ensure transparency and accountability.
    • Within 2 years, we want 90% of our children achieving Grade 2 literacy standards, including those who live in low income neighbourhoods
    • Within 5 years, we want 90% of our students graduating from high school, including those who live in low income neighbourhoods.
  4. Make Saint John the province’s Research & Development Centre to produce the most effective and efficient means to close the Education Achievement Gap for all of New Brunswick.

BCAPI is calling on all Greater Saint John residents to join us in asking every candidate in the upcoming provincial election how they will help our community close the Education Achievement Gap.

The BCAPI Leadership Group:

Bill Gale (Founder) • Tom Gribbons (Chair) • Gary Lawson (Past Chair) • John Adams • Brice Belyea • Lino Celeste • Nancy Creamer-Ervin • Roxanne Fairweather • Charlie Harling • Paulette Hicks • Gregor Hope • J.K. Irving • Robert MacKinnon • Blair Northcott • Derek Oland • Gerry Pond • Christian Richard • Sheri Somerville • Bob Vincent • John Wheatley • Steve Whitters

Achieve Literacy Greater Saint John Infographic

Click to view the PDF

Articles from the Telegraph Journal and CBC News

Want real prosperity? Intervene really early

Gerry Pond Commentary – Telegraph Journal – September 13, 2014

The headlines in Saint John in recent weeks have included some very unwelcome news. In a tie with Toronto, Saint John has the highest rate of child poverty among cities in Canada, with 29 per cent of children in our community living below the poverty line. This statistic is certainly troubling, but it is not necessarily surprising for those who have been working to develop and implement….CONTINUE READING


A much-needed community approach

Paulette Hicks Commentary – Telegraph Journal – September 10, 2014

There was a time when poverty was not talked about. The Business Community Anti-Poverty Initiative (BCAPI) has made poverty a topic of discussion among business leaders in our region. Whether the conversations happen socially or around the boardroom table there is recognition that in order to have a successful city, the business community, non-profits, and government need to continue….CONTINUE READING


It’s about the future of New Brunswick

Gary Lawson Commentary – Telegraph Journal – Saturday September 6, 2014

Without substantial changes to our approach to education we will not solve our economic problems in New Brunswick.

As the provincial election date looms closer, we are beginning to hear even more about the future of New Brunswick. It’s true that we are at a crossroads on a number of issues, and there are many decisions to be made now that will affect our future….CONTINUE READING


Education reform needs to shoot for the moon

By David Alston, CBC News Posted: Sep 05, 2014 5:12 AM ET Last Updated: Sep 05, 2014 5:12 AM ET

This past summer was the 45th since the first human walked on the moon. And that achievement came less than seven years after President John F. Kennedy made his speech to the nation that they would “choose to go to the moon.”

Imagine, in a span of less than two government mandates they put people on the moon and brought them back home again alive with technology probably a million times less powerful than that smartphone sitting inside your pocket….CONTINUE READING


Education reform needs new script

EDITORIAL Telegraph-Journal – September 3, 2014

New Brunswick has languished at or near the back of the pack when it comes to educational outcomes for decades. Despite spending more money on a shrinking enrolment, our provincial educational policies and programs have been unable to reverse poor literacy and numeracy results.

So when political leaders vying for votes in the Sept. 22 provincial election outline how they will reverse this multi-generational trend….CONTINUE READING


New Brunswick’s education system is too centralized, expert says

Alan Sears says voters should be wary of politicians ‘who promise painless and quick cures’
By Daniel McHardie, CBC News Posted: Sep 03, 2014 6:22 AM ET Last Updated: Sep 03, 2014 6:44 AM ET

New Brunswick voters should be wary of any politician who promises sweeping changes to the province’s education system, according to the University of New Brunswick’s Alan Sears.

Schools re-opened across New Brunswick on Tuesday and students were filing back into classrooms and getting ready for another year….CONTINUE READING


Closing the gap through education

BRICE BELYEA COMMENTARY – Telegraph-Journal, September 2, 2014

Saint John’s education achievement gap can be directly linked to our city’s history of multi-generational poverty.

Children who come from poor neighbourhoods are consistently less prepared to start school and, as they carry on through the educational system, their learning issues can grow to such a magnitude that as many as half do not graduate…CONTINUE READING


We cannot afford the cost of poverty

Tom Gribbons Commentary – Telegraph Journal – Saturday August 30, 2014

Without substantial changes to our approach to education we will not solve our economic problems in New Brunswick.
Saint John has a serious and deeply-rooted problem with multi-generational poverty. The very future of this city could be at stake if significant progress is not made to end this social inequality. Our overall poverty rate stands at 20.8 per cent, and many who fall into that category are the third or fourth generation to live on limited incomes…CONTINUE READING


Early Literacy Needs To Be Championed

ROXANNE FAIRWEATHER COMMENTARY - Telegraph Journal – Wednesday August 27, 2014 

The most basic and well-known rule of investing smart is to “start early,” as it generally applies to the stock market or retirement planning.  Achieve Literacy Greater Saint John has found that it also applies to solving our literacy problem.

The first three years of school are critical in literacy development for all children. Children who do not read at grade level by Grade 3 have a 60 per cent higher chance than their peers of significantly underachieving relative to their….CONTINUE READING

Doubting Education Orthodoxy

Kurt Peacock THE NEXT CITY – Telegraph Journal – Saturday August 23, 2014

While it was first delivered more than seven decades ago, the second inaugural address of Franklin Delano Roosevelt remains one of the most important political documents of the past 100 years. It was given in January of 1937, as North America remained mired in a prolonged recession, not unlike the one New Brunswick is currently experiencing. Yet instead of the standard political trope about the need for job creation, FDR issued a call to action to those citizens who collectively wanted a better future.

“I see one-third of a nation ill-housed, ill-clad, ill-nourished, ”FDR said. “It is not in despair that I paint you that picture. I paint it for you in hope – because the nation….CONTINUE READING

We’re Making Progress


When I see the continued effort of our community to support the education and well-being of our young people, working together to break the cycle of poverty, I think back to where it all started. Bill Gale was the fellow who got us all on this road – we really owe it all to him.

We recognized back then that the key to success was education – focusing on children reading well. PALS was started to partner businesses and the community with our priority schools. The idea was to provide….CONTINUE READING

Base Education Spend On Need

Telegraph Journal – Friday August 22, 2014 – Editorial

There are many organizations and individuals working diligently to improve the lives of low income families in Saint John. Among those groups is the Business Community Anti-Poverty Initiative which has published a position paper that includes some numbers that should be a clarion call for our entire city.

In five low-income neighbourhoods, early years literacy rates and high school graduation rates are well below both district and provincial averages…CONTINUE READING

Closing Education Gap

Education Business leaders challenge politicians to tackle low literacy, high dropout rates

Overcoming low literacy and high dropout rates that plague schools serving the city’s low-income neighbourhoods means the province’s one-size-fits-all education model has to change, a collective of Saint John business people say.

The Business Community Anti-Poverty Initiative is hoping to use the upcoming election as an opportunity to raise awareness with politicians to address what they have coined as the education achievement gap….CONTINUE READING