Our Opportunity

Photo: Breakthrough Twin Cities


Breakthrough Collaborative’s purpose is to reconcile the disparity between the facts that:

  1. Most people need a college education to succeed in today’s economy, and
  2. There are long-standing inequities at play which prevent students from under-resourced communities from getting the support they need to attend college at the same rate as their more affluent peers.


Opportunity and achievement gap

While roughly one of every two students from high-income communities in the United States will graduate from college, only one in ten of their peers from under-resourced communities can say the same. Strikingly, even students from low-income communities who have above-average test scores have a college graduation rate lower than more affluent classmates with lower test scores (National Center for Education Statistics).

As a nation, America’s future depends on a diverse population of highly educated and skilled workers. Yet many students across the country are failing to thrive, losing opportunities to gain a competitive global edge, and create a positive path forward for themselves and for their families. This is particularly true for students who attend under-resourced schools.

Middle school—a time of tremendous academic, developmental, and social change—is a critical period during which students are either launched on the path to high school graduation and college success or knocked off track. Having knowledge of the prerequisite steps needed to find success and the support to navigate barriers significantly improves a student’s ability to meet his or her goal of getting to college.


Impact of teachers on student achievement

Research reflects what Breakthrough has known for decades: student success requires resources, attention, and authentic mentorship.

A 2015 report by the National Education Association, “Time for a Change: Diversity in Teaching Revisited” reveals that a “teaching force that represents the nation’s racial, ethnic, and linguistic cultures and effectively incorporates this background and knowledge to enhance students’ academic achievement is advantageous to the academic performance of students of all backgrounds, and for students of color specifically.” Breakthrough Collaborative makes a point of recruiting a highly talented group of teachers that represents the students they serve. We are proud that our teaching fellows are more demographically diverse than the national average for professional teachers.

Breakthrough also addresses the shortage of qualified math and science teachers needed to inspire under-served middle and high school students nationwide. The U.S. needs thousands of these teachers each year as the student population grows and veteran teachers retire. The gap in qualified math and science teachers disproportionately impacts students from low-income communities: the Education Trust reports that in high-poverty schools, two in five math classes are led by teachers without a college major or certification in math.