The Achievement Gap Initiative at Harvard University

“Justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are.” – Benjamin Franklin

Despite our understanding that a good education is the key to ending generational poverty and creating opportunity in underserved communities, the achievement gap between minority and white students has remained largely unchanged for nearly 50 years. Educational disparities between black, white, Hispanic, and Asian children are apparent as early as two years old and those gaps grow wider over time. The idea that educational opportunity is bound to a child’s race or ethnicity should inspire outrage in all of us, not just among those who are affected.

There are many local efforts around the country working to reduce educational inequality and close the opportunity gap, but we badly need to engage in more broad conversations around the issue. One such conversation is taking place at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education where Dr. Ronald Ferguson directs the Achievement Gap Institute. Dr. Ferguson set out ten years ago to study every identifiable factor in educational inequality. In 2015, he turned his research into an initiative called the Boston Basics Campaign which aims to equip parents of infants and toddlers under three years old with the tools necessary to accelerate their child’s cognitive and emotional development. With five simple steps, the Boston Basics provide a powerful set of research-based development tools and helps to develop a strong foundation for future learning. The steps, which have been shared through a broad public outreach campaign are:

  • Maximize Love, Manage Stress
  • Talk, Sing, and Point
  • Count, Group, and Compare
  • Explore Through Movement and Play
  • Read and Discuss Stories

Simple steps based on rigorous foundational research, and spread throughout an entire community to bring about change. Makes good sense to me.

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