When educational achievement lags, reformers often ask why schools are failing and look to institutional solutions like testing, teacher preparation, and curriculum reforms.

But striving to ensure quality education for all in the classroom is just part of the answer, education and community development experts said Monday. The rest lies outside of schools, where children spend most of their time and where the divide between the nation’s haves and have-nots is stark — from access to basic needs like housing, food, and health care to enriching activities after school and during vacations.

“We as a society have thrown up our hands, shrugged our shoulders at this and said ‘That’s just the way it is’ rather than make it an entitlement,” said Paul Reville, the Francis Keppel Professor of Practice of Educational Policy and Administration at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. “We know it matters. If you get it, you surge forward; if you don’t, you fall back.”

That’s why Reville, founding director of HGSE’s EdRedesign Lab, and Geoffrey Canada, a GSE alum and president of Harlem Children’s Zone, are teaming up this week to inspire and support nonprofit community groups looking to level the playing field. The event, “Summer Institute: Transforming Place through Neighborhood Leadership,” is sponsored by the EdRedesign Lab at HGSE and the William Julius Wilson Institute at Harlem Children’s Zone.

Canada, who earned a master’s degree from Harvard in 1975, is nationally known for the model of “wrap-around” services that Harlem Children’s Zone designed to augment the work of schools in fostering child development. The organization, which Canada founded, works with neighborhood groups to ensure basic educational services, along with pre-kindergarten, after-school services, health care, violence-prevention programs, college admissions support, and other aid for parents and families.


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