This is why it's in the interest of all Americans to work towards a solution. And it's the reason EDREDESIGN exists.
The American Dream has always been that anyone can succeed through hard work and determination. But in America today, the reality is that access to opportunity is limited—especially for kids in families with lower incomes.
More than ever before, living a decent life requires a good education. And, for kids growing up in America today, the chances of getting a good education depend largely on their family’s income. Redesigning the education system so it works for low-income kids as well as it does for their affluent peers would change everything.
In the early 20th century, we had an industrial economy with a massive demand for unskilled labor. The vast majority of Americans never graduated from high school. Now we have a knowledge-driven economy in which most jobs require a college education. But we still have an education system designed half a century before the first televisions arrived in American homes.
In early childhood, the most important phase of human development, low-income kids have less access to learning experiences and more exposure to stress, in the form of adverse childhood experiences.
They are less likely to be ready for school by age 5—and, throughout their school years, they won’t have the afterschool and summer enrichment opportunities that are critical to the success of kids in affluent families.
Higher family income also enables greater access to healthcare and counseling—as well as social capital, which refers to the collective value of all social networks of which one is a part.
Beginning in 1983, when a Presidential Commission released the report A Nation at Risk: The Imperative for Educational Reform, business and government leaders have demanded that we educate all children to a level previously reserved for the elite few.
The resulting efforts have made some improvements, but nowhere near what is needed. These efforts assumed that we could retrofit the old system rather than replace it—focusing entirely inside the schools. And they naively underestimated the impact of poverty on students.
In June 2017, EdRedesign convened national leaders to explore opportunities to build a coordinated movement. Participants included representatives from: The Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, Children's Aid Society, City Connects, Coalition for Community Schools, Communities in Schools, FourPoint Education Partners, Forum for Youth Investment, Harlem Children's Zone, Promise Neighborhoods Institute at PolicyLink, Say Yes to Education, and StriveTogether. In addition to state policy change, the priority that emerged from that meeting focused on the necessity to train community leaders to successfully manage complex cross-sector initiatives that yield positive outcomes for children at scale. In November 2018, 20 teams comprised of over 100 community leaders participated in the inaugural Institute, Strengthening Community Leadership to Help All Children Thrive. The Institute was led by faculty from Harvard Business School, Harvard Kennedy School, Harvard Graduate School of Education, MIT, and national leaders.
What will it take to make this better