In the News: The Roles of Family and Community in Shaping Educational Success

This week Johns Hopkins University is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Coleman Report. (Education Next celebrated the anniversary with a special issue published earlier this year.)

ednext-oct16-blog-ototn-colemanThis evening at 5:50 pm, Education Secretary John B. King Jr. will speak at the conference.  The speech can be viewed live here.

In a recent article for the Deseret News, Eric Schulzke looks at efforts to solve some of the challenges identified by Coleman.

The 1966 Coleman Report, named for its principal author, James Samuel Coleman, a sociologist at Johns Hopkins University, found that school structure, teaching and curriculum had a much smaller impact on how well students do academically than long supposed. The most potent influences on academic success, he argued, were found in the home, in the neighborhood and among friends.

“The Coleman Report pushed family and community to the forefront in shaping academic success,” said David Figlio, an economist and director of the Institute for Policy Research at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois.

And that’s where the Harlem Children’s Zone and the Promise Neighborhoods enter the picture.

“We’ve spent a long time as a society trying to solve social complex problems with isolated, simple programs,” says Bill Crim, CEO of the United Way of Salt Lake County, which is heavily invested in the model.

If Coleman was right, tackling educational achievement gaps must begin at or before birth — not kindergarten. And those gaps will be closed not by teachers in isolation, but by supportive communities that empower parents and embrace children — before they ever get to school, and when they are outside of it as well.

Anna Egalite, who is quoted in the article, wrote about the influence of family background on academic achievement for Ed Next’s special issue on the Coleman Report.

– Education Next

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