The Achievement Gap Initiative at Harvard University


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Postive Youth Culture

"From a number of sources, we know that young people value success in the domain of academic achievement but they value acceptance and importance among peers, too. When the quality of performance in school and popularity with peers must be traded off against each other, the desire for social acceptance often carries a great deal of weight and reduces devotion to excellence." Toward Excellence with Equity, 2007, Ronald Ferguson


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AGI Projects on Youth Culture

Possible Selves: To become successful adults, youth need support in developing images of possible future selves as well as associated strategies. The AGI is working with a network of out-of-school-time providers to co-design experiences that aim to provide youth with knowledge, skills, and mindsets that will help them navigate the journey from adolescence to adulthood.

Youth Culture and the Conspiracy to Succeed: Adolescents desire few things more than social acceptance. However, as individuals, they have quite limited power to set or reset rules by which social acceptance is granted. Schools participating in the Conspiracy to Succeed invite students and adults to collaborate in an effort to reset the rules – both formal rules and informal social norms – that affect school behaviors and that help to determine success not only in school, but for a lifetime. Two dozen schools from several states participated in an initial diagnostic survey. Students confirmed that their school cultures are not what they would choose if they could design the cultures themselves. Several schools made informal efforts to organize their own conspiracies. Work is ongoing to define specific methods and messages to more formally mount conspiracies to succeed in middle schools and high schools, to provide supports for implementation and to evaluate the impacts.