A good education ensures that young people are set up for success and can reach their full potential. Education starts at birth and continues into meaningful careers, with ongoing opportunities to learn and grow.
Supportive learning environments maximize student learning and positively shape social and behavioral development. Education is also an engine of social mobility. Higher levels of education are linked with more income, better health, and increased opportunities.
Changing Course summaries feature working definitions, recent facts, key issues, and a short list of pivotal moves that stand out as high priorities for quick action.Changing-Course_Lifelong-Learning
Deep Dives are the full source documents contributed by colleagues on the various topics selected in the Changing Course summaries.Deep-Dive_Lifelong-Learning
Cradle to Career
20% of children’s waking hours occur in school—during the other 80%, affluent children receive supports and opportunities that are unavailable to their
80% of childhood brain growth occurs before age 3
50% of children living in poverty begin school unequipped with foundational knowledge and skills
Facts adapted from the
Lifelong Learning: Cradle to Career
WE NEED TO BREAK DOWN THE BARRIERS of time and space that lock us into the narrow confines of schools by preparing for an education system that provides learning opportunities literally anytime, anywhere. The necessary tools exist, but we are only beginning to take full advantage of them. By leveraging technology, revising incentive structures, and rethinking learning relationships, we can extend learning opportunities and increase society wide equity. Schooling conducted face to face, in person—at least in part—will always be with us, but it need not be the entirety of what we consider education.
The school closings necessitated by COVID-19 have traumatized students, families, and educators. Now is the time for urgent, thoughtful contemplation of the ways in which this moment can be harnessed to shift paradigms. If we make the right choices, we can reduce childhood poverty, attack racism in all its forms, and improve the quality of our systems of child development.
Youth and families will be critical partners in achieving this paradigm shift. For too long, they have been left out of decision making about education, despite the fact that the people most impacted by problems have some of the best solutions. The first step toward shifting power to community leadership is engaging and co-creating with the community.
Changing Focus, Changing Priorities
- The biggest enemy of progress is the tendency of reform to be modestly incremental and to complement existing structures, interests, and power relationships.
- Building human capital is an essential long-term investment for which today’s leaders must make a compelling case in order to focus the public’s nearterm
- Continuous learning from the earliest stages of life to mature adulthood should be the norm if our citizens and society are to prosper in coming decades.
- We desperately need a highly educated, media-literate citizenry capable of discerning truth, recognizing evidence, and engaging in sophisticated analytical thinking.
- It will be impossible to generate the necessary resources to assure equitable systems without changes in tax policy—philanthropy should not be funding basic services and supports.
- The necessary paradigm shifts will require unprecedented levels of flexibility, imagination, and innovation from both management and labor unions.
Families & Communities
- Most schools, most of the time regard family engagement as a “nice to do.” In the worst cases, schools ignore and trivialize family engagement or even regard it as a nuisance. But the COVID-19 crisis has irretrievably thrust families into the very center of the education equation.
- There is a growing awareness of the need to nurture children’s social and emotional development—to enhance the interpersonal skills that are essential to workplace success.
- We cannot have an effective education system if students’ basic human needs are unmet.
- The most highly leveraged investments in education come in early childhood when children’s brains are growing, developing, and vulnerable. Yet, the early childhood sector is the least adequately funded, least accessible, and least professionalized component of our education system.
Learning from the COVID-19 Experience
- With all children learning at home in the fourth quarter of this academic year, we’ve learned that if a “one size fits all” approach doesn’t work very well for students, it works even less well for families because of the wide variability in family circumstances.
- The closures of childcare centers due to the pandemic and the new safety requirements will mean many underfunded centers will close, making the already financially strapped sector even more fragile.
- Our schools are generally well behind the curve in adopting 21st-century tools for instructional purposes. Now is the time to surge forward.
A Selection of Ideas for Changing Course
STOP NEGLECTING EARLY DEVELOPMENT
To attract and retain talented early education teachers, we should raise salaries to place them on par with those of K-12 teachers. Increase support for high-quality home visiting programs. Forty years of research evidence shows that these kinds of programs yield significant reductions in child abuse and neglect, reduction in ER visits, and fewer behavioral and intellectual problems in children at age 6.
ORGANIZE CRADLE-TO-CAREER PARTNERSHIPS
Implement children’s cabinets in the cities and states that don’t already have them. Cabinets reshape the way communities serve children by bringing together leaders across sectors to make children’s success a communitywide responsibility rather than one that rests primarily with schools.
Invest in local cradle-to-career intermediary organizations to catalyze action, mobilize cross-sector partners, and drive shifts in resources.
USE TIME BETTER
We should design a system in which summer learning and enrichment are available to every child, not just to those fortunate enough to receive access through the accident of birth and family wealth.
The same applies to learning opportunities after school, on weekends, and over holidays. It’s time to bury our agrarian school calendar and substitute flexible, year-round learning.
RESTRUCTURE FOCUS ON INDIVIDUAL GROWTH
Curricula should be redesigned to emphasize the interpersonal and social emotional skills that are critical to success in modern life and 21st century workplaces.
Expand the use of Integrated Student Supports (ISS), a concept that has been in use for decades. ISS envisions a system in which all children receive the nurturance, health care, support, and stability required for successful learning.
Give every child a Personalized Success Plan. These plans capture the full range of young people’s needs and strengths in order to connect them with tailored, seamless, and equitable services and opportunities.
The adoption of a student success planning approach signals the end of the factory model of education and the start of an era in which each child is seen and matters.
BELONGING & CIVIC MUSCLE
We must build processes that place youth at the center of systems that shape opportunity in their communities, ensuring that they participate in decision
making. The leadership in schools and other pivotal institutions should reflect the composition of the surrounding communities.
Path to Renewal
We must operationalize equity to get better results for those affected by oppressive systems. This includes doing more to understand the history and legacy of systemic racism, colonization, and xenophobia.
We need a much higher percentage of our citizenry to be motivated and prepared to actively participate in the civic life of our challenging democracy. In coming years, human capital will be more important than ever to the prosperity of both our democracy and our economy. America has a long way to go in building a robust, nimble human capital development system to help our young people reach their full potential. Now is the time to redesign and rebuild.
“We need more than a simply school-based strategy for ensuring the health and well-being of students. This means recognizing and acting on the idea that in order for the child to flourish, the family must be healthy and stable. Interventions targeted at parents and guardians are critical.”— StriveTogether
Every year, 5,000 high school graduates who intended to go to college do not actually enroll in college in the fall. In partnership with Chicago Public Schools and post- secondary support organizations, Thrive Chicago raised funding for and helped support a Summer Transition Coordinator strategy in 55 high schools that had the highest rates of summer melt. Coordinators helped college-bound students navigate hurdles that had the potential to prevent them from making it to their post-secondary institutions.
After implementing the Summer Transition Coordinator strategy, 1,000 more students successfully started college. The strategy is now integrated into Chicago Public Schools’ broader postsecondary enrollment plan, with funding designated to support it.
We must shatter the myth that our current K-12 education system is the great equalizer, single-handedly creating an equal opportunity society in spite of unprecedented inequality in income and wealth. It’s a noble ideal, but the data over more than a century clearly prove that schools alone, even when substantially reformed, are too weak an intervention to deliver on the promise of giving all children a fair chance to succeed. It’s a myth. Now, we must move from an old-fashioned, schoolhouse-bound model of child development and education to a system of robust, flexible learning opportunities coupled with basic supports available from birth through adulthood.EDUCATION REDESIGN LAB, HARVARD GRADUATE SCHOOL OF EDUCATION
50% of Black, 33% of Latino, and 25% of all borrowers default on their student loans over a 20-year period 3 in 5 students are experiencing basic-needs insecurity because of the pandemic
44% of students at 2-year institutions and 38% at 4-year institutions were
concerned about food insecurity in March and April
15% of students at 4-year colleges have experienced
homelessness due to COVID-19
Facts adapted from the
Lifelong Learning: Higher Education
AMERICAN HIGHER EDUCATION EXHIBITED MULTIPLE SIGNS OF STRAIN and stress prior to the pandemic. In particular, the sector was confronted with a potent combination of declining financial resources and complex demands, the likes of which it had never seen before. A steady erosion of support over 50 years had left most of public higher education (and some private colleges) struggling to survive in 2020. Drastic cuts have been made to institutional support, specially for the public broad and open-access institutions educating three-quarters of all students. This has been accompanied by significant reductions in financial aid, including a shift in focus from grants to loans—a privatization of student financing.
The short-term impacts of COVID-19 will be exacerbated as unemployment rates continue to rise, eviction moratoriums end, states’ budget shortfalls lead to cuts in institutional appropriations and student financial aid, and the impacts of student debt accumulate. If we fail to take action, we can expect to see a continuation or increase in destructive trends.
- Unequal rates of college-going, particularly by race/ethnicity, income, and urbanicity, with numerous educational deserts
- Increased rates of problematic debt, financial distress, and housing insecurity
- Disruption of family formation among individuals in their 20s and 30s
- Heightened inequality in high school completion, combined with low and highly unequal rates of degree completion
- Widespread anxiety and depression among students at both the undergraduate and graduate level
- A workforce characterized by poor working conditions, particularly at the faculty and staff levels, including economic insecurity and exploitation
A Selection of Ideas for Changing Course
SUPPORT BASIC NEEDS
Suspend work requirements in all means-tested public benefit programs.
Create a demonstration program to make grants available to colleges
and community colleges so they can provide free meals to food-insecure
MAKE SURE EVERY STUDENT HAS A HOME
Encourage the use of emergency funds for stabilizing maintenance payments for homeless students.
Remove full-time-student restrictions on Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) units and Section 8 housing vouchers.
Build on the efforts of large public housing authorities by creating targeted housing vouchers for community college students.
EXPAND WORK OPPORTUNITIES
Expand the Federal Work-Study Program and adjust the allocation formula.
Bolster support for student engagement in community service.
FORGIVE STUDENT DEBT
The IRS could use tax records to identify individuals who have not earned an average of more than $100,000 per year over the last three years (including 2020—approximately the bottom 90% of earners), and automatically cancel all of their federal student loans.
Many higher-education students were already struggling with basic needs prior to COVID-19, particularly students of color and those in two-year colleges. The pandemic has only worsened those trends, reducing food security an imperiling physical and mental health.
Path to Renewal
Higher education has provided generations of Americans with access to a better life while increasing the economic vitality of the nation. Millions are in danger of losing those opportunities—or of being able to access them only by incurring crippling debt. To renew the country’s economic life, we must restore the vitality of higher education and ensure equitable access for all students.
“In the last century, American higher education dramatically expanded while keeping three core assumptions intact: 1) Means-tested financial aid is the best way to break the link between family income and college attainment; 2) Academic potential for college work is most effectively assessed by standardized tests; 3) Only those individuals who excelled in high school stand to benefit from college. A sizable body of empirical research now contradicts each of those assumptions and shows that they serve, independently and together, to exacerbate inequality.”— HOPE CENTER FOR COLLEGE, COMMUNITY, AND JUSTICE
In April 2020, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer announced Futures for Frontliners. The program will pay for college for essential workers without a college degree. The effort echoes the Tennessee Reconnect program, launched with bipartisan support in 2019 to provide tuition-free access to community college for adults over the age of 25 without a college degree. The Tennessee Reconnect initiative built on the Tennessee Promise, which has offered tuition-free community college to recent high school graduates since 2015.