In order to fix schools, policymakers and administrators should maybe stop focusing entirely on them.
That’s the premise of a new, multiyear initiative from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, which is working with six cities to help improve their education systems. The project, “By All Means: Redesigning Education to Restore Opportunity,” will look at a host of community factors affecting children’s lives instead of solely concentrating on what’s going on inside the classroom.
Individual donations and foundations are supporting By All Means, which represents a departure from common education reform techniques that typically focus on improving teacher quality and other in-school factors.
“Schools alone, as currently constituted and as currently conceived, are an insufficient intervention to bring about the goal we’re trying to achieve,” said Paul Reville, founding director of HGSE’s Education Redesign Lab, which is operating the project. “Schools alone can’t do the job. If we’re going to get all kids ready for success, it’s going to take a broader community effort.”
By All Means, which launched in February, will create a “children’s cabinet” composed of school superintendents, community leaders and government representatives in six cities. Each group will work to achieve a specific childhood development goal with the help of a consultant sent by Harvard.
Leaders from all of the cities will meet several times over the next few years to share best practices, and Harvard professors will keep them in touch with experts.
Reville describes the six cities — Oakland, California; Louisville, Kentucky; Providence, Rhode Island; and Salem, Somerville, and Newton in Massachusetts — as laboratories that will test different methods of improving education.
“We don’t expect them to transform the world of education and child development overnight, but they’ve agreed to make a strong run at it,” he said.