Last week, I had the great pleasure of moderating a conversation between Jim Shelton, the Director of Education at the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, a Judy Diers from the Ford Foundation, and our co-founder Jeff Raikes about our collective excitement in the promise of using the science of learning and development to advance equity in education. It came toward the conclusion of an invigorating couple of days with other scientists, practitioners, policymakers, and funders discussing the implications of what we know about how children learn and develop and how we can use that growing body of knowledge to redesign the learning environment to meet students’ needs.
As the science teaches us (and many educators have long known) relationships, connection, and belonging are essential to healthy development and set the table for academic success. Designing schools that support these relationships will take time, and there is no one-size-fits-all formula for doing so. But there shouldn’t be. One lesson philanthropy can learn from past efforts to improve education is that community – students, their families, and their teachers – need to make these changes in their schools with their students to meet their own needs.
Our friend Jim Shelton reminds us that “the heart and soul of education remains about great practitioners working lovingly and skillfully to create the environments and experiences that truly change lives.” What the science is teaching us is opening up an exciting new frontier in education—one we think holds the power to help close the stubborn opportunity and achievement gaps that continue to plague our education system.