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What is ABACUS

ABACUS, a collaborative initiative of Hamilton Community Foundation and The Fairmount Foundation, is a 10-year commitment to increasing the likelihood that young people who face multiple barriers, will graduate high school and access post-secondary by focusing on the pivotal middle school years and supporting the transition into high school.

What makes this approach different?

Part of what makes ABACUS unique is its focus on early intervention that gets students and their parents thinking about life after high school – during their pivotal middle school years, which are characterized by significant developmental changes.

ABACUS Phase II: Equity, wellness, academic achievement

When it was launched in 2016, ABACUS had three components:

  • Grants to programs that expanded Hamilton’s capacity to provide supports during the middle-school years
  • Grad Track, a three-year pilot using a learning coach to deliver intensive programming to a small group of students. This program formally ended in 2019, and provided many lessons for  the next phase of ABACUS
  • Bringing partners together to identify and address systemic barriers to post-secondary education

Through this work, the Foundation gained insight into Hamilton’s educational landscape. A comprehensive review conducted at the five-year mark provided insights for refinements that would enable ABACUS to best meet community needs. In particular, the evidence showed the need for an increased focus on the transition to high school, reading acquisition and numeracy in the earlier years, the importance of children’s overall social and emotional wellness to their academic achievement, and the critical importance of addressing the needs of students historically underserved in the education system.

Watch a narrated slide show:  ABACUS at the mid-way mark 

Based on this evidence, the Foundation launched ABACUS Phase II in spring 2022, which further focuses our grants and systems change work with refinements that include:

A deeper focus on student populations who face persistent and pervasive barriers in the education system and taking an intersectional approach to meeting their needs

This includes Indigenous, Black and racialized students; Two-Spirit and LGBTQIA+ students; students who are first-generation attenders (i.e. whose parents did not attend post-secondary); and students who are newcomers, male, have special education needs, have disabilities, have disciplinary records or who are from low-income families.

Expanding investment to include the transition period into the middle-school years (Grades 4 and 5), with a particular focus on addressing learning interruptions arising from the pandemic.

An environmental scan of education-based programs in Hamilton revealed that very few programs are focused on older elementary children. Research has also shown the need for reading acquisition and numeracy as a result of the pandemic is more pronounced in elementary students than in secondary students. In addition, the pandemic has adversely affected the overall health of students — and some student groups have been affected more than others.

Increasing support for the transition out of the middle-school years and into high school, including Grade 9 and the transition into Grade 10.

Another critical period in a student’s academic journey is the transition into secondary school. Students are adapting to a new environment – a larger group of classmates, more teachers and semestered learning. Research shows that academic success in Grade 9 is a strong predictor of high school completion and postsecondary access

Where are we now?

The Foundation has launched a call for proposals from community organizations for programming that works towards the goals of ABACUS for the 2022-23 school year, and continues its systems change initiatives with partners across the community and provincially.

To read about the background behind ABACUS, please click here.