A new program announced this week by the Harvard Graduate School of Education intends to reduce the achievement gap between wealthy and low-income students.
The program entitled, All Means: Redesigning Education to Restore Opportunity, will be implemented in three Massachusetts cities including, Somerville, Newton, and Salem, as well as Providence, RI, Oakland, CA, and Louisville, KY.
“We’ve gotten six cities around the country where we’ve got visionary Mayors who’ve committed to a broad vision of what it takes to get children ready for success, and who are committed to the idea that what we need to do get kids ready to be successful in society goes beyond just what we do in schools,” said former Massachusetts Secretary of Education and professor at Harvard Graduate School of Education Paul Reville on Boston Public Radio Thursday.
The All Means program will help individualize the education process and help school systems move away from the old 19th-century factory model of education, that according to Reville, “ isn’t strong enough on average to take kids from widely variable backgrounds and get them all to the same level of readiness for success.”
In order to reduce the achievement gap, Reveille believes that schools and teachers are going to have to differentiate how they approach each student. “What we are doing in schools with this factory model would be akin in the world of healthcare to opening a hospital and giving everyone the same treatment and stay irrespective of their ailment,” Reville said.
The Harvard Graduate School of Education is not giving any guidelines to the six cities on how to achieve these goals. As the program matures, Harvard will study the most successful educational implementations and try to figure out ways to use these ideas in other cities.
One change that the cities will be focusing on is providing low-income students with the same opportunities to participate in extracurricular and summer programs that financially privileged children have. “The data shows that those enrichment opportunities, not surprisingly, advantage and accelerate the progress of privileges kids, and the lack of such opportunities tend to slow down others. Even if schooling is equal during the year, you have a gap that widens every summer, ” says Reville.
As of now, neither taxpayer or Harvard money will be used in the program. Although a day where outside money may be needed to run the programs may come someday, says Reville.
For Reville, the importance of reducing the achievement gap cannot be understated. “If we are really serious about getting all kids ready for success, and we have to be, not just from an ethical standpoint where most of us come from, but also from just a financial self-interest story standpoint,” Reville said.