Harvard program aims to boost public schools

Initiative launching at school districts in Mass. and three other states

Harvard researchers are launching an initiative at school districts in Massachusetts and three other states in an effort to help close the achievement gap among students, the university announced on Tuesday.

The multi-year initiative from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, called By All Means: Redesigning Education to Restore Opportunity, is “aimed at developing comprehensive child well-being and education systems that help eliminate the link between children’s socioeconomic status and achievement,” the graduate school said in a statement.

Participating cities are Salem, Somerville, and Newton in Massachusetts, along with Providence, Oakland, Calif., and Louisville, according to the statement.


The graduate school’s Education Redesign Lab will run the project. The lab’s founding director is Paul Reville, former Massachusetts Secretary of Education.

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“Schools alone, as currently conceived, can’t do the job of educating all children for success,” Reville said in the statement. “We can do better. By All Means will help light the way.”

The cities selected for the initiative were chosen for their “distinguished record and a broad conception of their roles in ensuring children’s success,” the school said.

Mayors of each city will work with the Harvard lab to create “Children’s Cabinets” that include superintendents, health and social service officials, cultural and arts activists, and other stakeholders, according to the university.

The cabinets “will brainstorm and design new, effective strategies – aimed at closing persistent achievement and opportunity gaps — for meeting all children’s needs in their communities,” the graduate school said.


The Harvard lab will document the most effective strategies so they can be implemented widely, according to the release.

Harvard President Drew Faust also praised the initiative.

“The By All Means project is a perfect example of the ways that Harvard University can advance our understanding of the mechanisms that perpetuate the lack of educational opportunity for too many children in poverty, and the ways in which we can begin to confront this inequality through thoughtful policy and collaborative action,” Faust said in a statement.

While Newton is among the wealthiest communities in Massachusetts, it also participates in the METCO program, which allows students in under-served areas to enroll in higher performing school districts.

Newton’s METCO program is the largest in the state, maintaining a targeted enrollment of 415 students in grades K-12, according to the Newton Public Schools website.


James Ryan, dean of the Harvard Graduate School of Education, also voiced optimism about the By All Means program on Tuesday.

“Addressing the persistent inequality in educational access and opportunity will take a comprehensive, strategic, and evidence-based approach, and I’m thrilled that Paul Reville is taking a leadership role in this work,” Ryan said in a statement.

Travis Andersen can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe.