Why “Breakthrough?”

Elsewhere on our website, you will read our new proposal for Breakthrough Schools. It is the result of hours and hours of work and creative energy. It is not a curriculum, or a business plan. It is a roadmap to those things.

Remember that the Great Schools for All (GS4A) goal is a regional, voluntary network of magnet schools that will help reduce the effects of crushing and concentrated poverty and give every child the opportunity to receive an excellent education, regardless of their zip code.

John Wilkinson is pastor of Third Presbyterian Church and co-convener of Great Schools for All

John Wilkinson is pastor of Third Presbyterian Church and co-convener of Great Schools for All


That last sentence is a mouthful. The concept is at once simple and complex. Kids can succeed when the playing field is levelled, and currently, because of concentrated poverty in the city, the playing field simply is not level. It can’t be. We continue to receive comments that poverty is an excuse, that children and families—if they work hard enough—can succeed academically. I’ve heard that in meetings I’ve recently attended.

We know that there are exceptions, admirable exceptions. But will all due respect, we disagree. Poverty matters. Both our own experiences and our research indicate that the levels of poverty our children face—fueled in large part by structural racism–make real and sustained achievement impossible. Not difficult, but impossible.

  • And so Great Schools for All.
  • And so our proposal.
  • And so Breakthrough Schools.

We are not marketing experts, so there may be a better term down the road than “Breakthrough.” This is not about branding at all, and people will be able to call schools what they want, we presume.

But for the moment, let’s consider that term—“breakthrough”—and why we are lifting it up.

It is energized and suggests motion and forward progress. It has the letter “K” which people say is a memorable sound—who knows!

But more than that…We are seeking to break through so many things with this proposal.

  • poverty barriers
  • low graduation rates
  • restrictive geographic boundaries
  • old ways of doing things
  • accepted results

We are seeking to break through the old into something new. We are seeking to break through conversation and discussion to action. We are seeking to break through how things are to how things might be.

Again, it’s just a name, and, admittedly, we haven’t spent much time on marketing and branding. But we have spent lots of time, and energy, on the proposal, and learning about all of the factors and dynamics that got us where we are and that might allow us to break through.

Please read our proposal and let us know what you think. And please read Mary Anna Towler’s column on the Great Schools proposal in the April 20 City Newspaper.


Media inquiries: John Wilkinson at JWilkinson@thirdpresbyterian.org