The Achievement Gap Initiative at Harvard University


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Effective Parenting

"The best available evidence indicates that children of different racial and socioeconomic backgrounds come into the world equally equipped to excel...However, by age three, between-group skill differences are clearly in evidence. Later, gaps in school readiness are firmly established by the first day of kindergarten." Toward Excellence with Equity, 2007, Ronald Ferguson

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AGI Projects on Parenting

Boston Basics: The Boston Basics project aims to influence early childhood parenting and caregiving practices. It builds upon a two-day conference on parenting the AGI held in the summer of 2011. Prominent researchers presented on the most important insights from their work regarding how parents affect achievement. Following the conference, the AGI assembled a national advisory committee and began to design a project to reach parents of all racial and socio-economic backgrounds. The focus is on five fundamental parenting behaviors for children ages 0 to 3 that support multiple domains of early childhood development. In collaboration with community-based partners, the AGI is working to pilot the intervention with a quasi-experimental assessment design.

Read the "Review of the Science Behind the Boston Basics Zero-to-Three Initiative: Evidence for the Fundamental Five Early Childhood Parenting Behaviors".

How I Was Parented: The How I was Parented project has conducted one-hundred and twenty extensive interviews with Harvard students on how they were parented. The emphasis is on how parents contributed to Harvard students' development and learning. Students who participated as either interviewers or respondents have come from the Harvard Kennedy School, the Graduate Schools of Education, Law and Business as well as from the undergraduate College. This project responds to a question that many people ask: “What prepares and motivates a student to end up at Harvard?” An aim of the project is to compare and contrast the parenting styles that students from a variety of backgrounds have experienced. The focus includes both good and bad experiences. For example, ways that parents dealt with differences between high and low achieving children in the family is a special focus. Findings will serve as the basis for a book on parenting and educational achievement.

The AGI began convening the AGI Parent Leadership Network in September 2008. Researchers and parent leaders from communities in several states have met four times at Harvard to learn about relevant research, trade ideas, coach one another, and share examples of their own leadership.  Presentations and discussions have covered topics ranging from home-learning lifestyles, to ways of helping schools and holding them accountable. The AGI Parent Leadership Network's main purpose is to equip parent leaders with ideas and energy for helping others in home communities to help ALL our children succeed. An aspiration is to organize both action and research projects spanning a number of the participating communities. Participants in the Parent Leadership Network have found it both inspirational and helpful as a source of ideas.

The “Love-to-Read Survey” was inspired by a participant in the AGI Parent Leadership Network, seeking reading suggestions for his children. Using survey responses from students at Harvard and other universities, the AGI has begun compiling annotated booklists from which teachers, parents, and children can select books that helped inspire a love for reading. A particular emphasis was to identify works that help adolescents better understand issues of racial, gender, and social class identity. The initial report from the Love to Read project has been well received by parents associated with the Parent Leadership Network. Possibilities for an expanded version and wider dissemination are under consideration.