Harvard Researches the Outside Factors that Affect Student School Performance

A new initiative from Harvard student researchers aim to dissect the education systems of six cities — and find out what outside factors influence student classroom performance. The By All Means: Redesigning Education to Restore Opportunity project examines a multitude of factors that affect children’s lives outside their school environments. The initiative is founded on the idea that the key to improving student achievement across the board is for the policymakers and administrators to stop focusing exclusively on the schools themselves.

By All Means will support a group comprised of school superintendents, leaders and government representatives in each of the six participating cities. The groups will each strive to accomplish a defined student development goal under the support of an expert from the Harvard researchers. Leaders from the six cities will come together several times to collaborate on the upcoming years.

The six cities of the program are Louisville; Oakland; Providence; and three Massachusetts cities: Newton, Salem and Somerville. These cities will act as guinea pigs that will try assorted techniques to improve education.

Harvard will be tracking the cities’ momentum while pinpointing impending barriers to success. I think the most interesting part will center on the comparison between the cities — what is working where, and why. My guess is that different approaches and challenges will accompany each city on the list which will further prove the point of the whole initiative: applying one blanket tactic to all schools, and then expecting all schools to perform at the same level, just doesn’t work. There is a lot of variety in what students need based on their backgrounds and even their geography. Addressing the needs of more specific groups and what those students face when they aren’t in the classroom will go a long way toward improving academics.

Let’s hope that this initiative answers a lot of questions and can find methods to improve education so we see all K-12 students experience success.

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