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Faculty & Research

Richard Weissbourd

Senior Lecturer on Education
Faculty Director, Human Development and Psychology

Richard Weissbourd

Degree:  Ed.D., Harvard University, (1987)
Email:  [javascript protected email address]
Phone:  617.495.2031
Vitae/CV:   Richard Weissbourd.pdf
Office:  Longfellow 328
Office Hours Contact:  Email the Faculty Member
Faculty Assistant:  Mark McNally


Richard Weissbourd is currently a senior lecturer on education at HGSE and at the Kennedy School of Government. He is also faculty co-director of the Human Development and Psychology master's program. His work focuses on vulnerability and resilience in childhood, the achievement gap, moral development, and effective schools and services for children. He directs the Making Caring Common Project, a national effort to make moral and social development priorities in child-raising and to provide strategies to schools and parents for promoting in children caring, a commitment to justice and other key moral, emotional and social capacities. As part of the Making Caring Common project, Weissbourd leads Turning the Tide, a national effort to reform college admissions that has engaged almost 200 college admissions offices in promoting ethical engagement, reducing damaging achievement pressure in high school and increasing equity and access for economically disadvantaged students. He is currently conducting research on how older adults can better mentor young adults and teenagers in developing ethical, mature romantic relationships. He is a founder of several interventions for children, including ReadBoston and WriteBoston, citywide literacy initiatives led by Mayor Menino. He is also a founder of a Boston pilot school, the Lee Academy, that begins with children at 3 years old. For several years he was a counselor in community mental health centers. He has advised on the city, state, and federal levels on family policy and school reform and has written for numerous scholarly and popular publications, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Huffington Post, CNN, The New Republic, NPR, and Psychology Today. He is the author of The Vulnerable Child: What Really Hurts America’s Children and What We Can Do About It (Addison-Wesley, 1996), named by the American School Board Journal as one of the top 10 education books of all time. His most recent book, The Parents We Mean to Be: How Well-Intentioned Adults Undermine Children's Moral and Emotional Development (Houghton Mifflin 2009), was named by The New Yorker as one of the top 24 books of 2009.

Click here to see a full list of Richard Weissbourd's courses.

Areas of Expertise

Runner Up, National Awards for Education Reporting 2012. Opinion in an Education-Only Newsroom: Promoting Moral Development in Schools, Harvard Education Letter, 28(1), Jan/Feb 2012. (2012),(2012)

Awarded One of Top 10 Education Books of All Time by American School Board Journal, for The Vulnerable Child (Addison-Wesley, 1996)

Best Editorial Award from Association of Educational Publishers for The "Quiet" Troubles of Low Income Children, Harvard Education Letter, 24(2), March/April 2008.

Book selected by New Yorker reviewers as one of the top 24 nonfiction books of 2009. Weissbourd, R. The Parents We Mean to Be: How Well-Intentioned Adults Undermine Children's Moral and Emotional Development (Houghton Mifflin, 2009).

Sponsored Projects

KIND Schools Challenge (2017-2018)
The KIND Foundation

The second round of the KIND Schools Challenge will build on the successes and lessons learned from the inaugural challenge in 2016-2017. The purpose and concept will remain the same, but the scope of the project will expand. The major upgrades for the 2017-2018 year are as follows:•Open the challenge to middle school & high schools nationwide•Give teams more time to prep their applications •Provide teams with additional support before and during implementation •Increase the amount of storytelling and data collection - Award additional winners; The KIND Foundation to administrate the awards Purpose: The KIND Schools Challenge aims to mobilize groups of students to cultivate kinder, more caring, inclusive communities and to tackle issues such as bullying and harassment that undermine caring and empathy in schools. The goals of the initiative are: •To empower and mobilize students to step outside of themselves and their immediate social circles to create kinder, more inclusive school communities.•To identify and showcase models that effectively create kinder, more inclusive school communities.

Turning the Tide (2017-2018)
Einhorn Family Charitable Trust

The college admissions process is a major rite of passage for millions of students. In fact, it is the focus for many students during their high school careers and powerfully shapes their priorities and experiences at a crucial, formative time in their lives. But too many young people are receiving the message that what matters chiefly or solely to colleges— and by extension to society—is a high number of impressive achievements, not meaningful ethical and intellectual engagement. Making Caring Common launched Turning the Tide in January 2016 to try to shift the core messages that young people hear about what colleges value. The report represents the first time in history that colleges and universities across the country—including all the Ivy League schools—have banded together to make the collective statement that what matters most in college admissions is not long “brag sheets” but concern for others and the common good and meaningful, spirited learning. This report also redefines achievement and service in ways that increase access and equity for economically disadvantaged students. The substantial and positive response to the report suggest a powerful opportunity for Turning the Tide to effect meaningful change in college admissions. This grant supports the next phase of working with colleges, universities, and high schools to implement the recommendations of the Turning the Tide reports.

Building Virtues through College Admissions: Developing Effective, Authentic Assessments that Positively Motivate Student Behavior (2017-2020)
John Templeton Foundation

The college admissions process provides a powerful opportunity to motivate key virtues in high school students. Yet the message that young people typically receive today is that what matters most to colleges—and to society—is a high number of achievements, not meaningful ethical or performance virtues. The good news is that college admissions offices want better tools for assessing and motivating virtues. Making Caring Common (MCC) seeks support from the Templeton Foundation to analyze current college admissions tools and practices and to pilot new tools in high schools and college admission offices that promote both ethical and performance virtue development and equity and access for economically disadvantaged students. In the project’s first phase, we will determine the most effective admissions practices for assessing and/or motivating ethical virtues and diligence in the face of demanding family responsibilities and, in consultation with experts and admissions officers, recommend revisions and consider new approaches. In the second phase, we will develop, pilot, and evaluate innovative, scalable assessment strategies in high schools to be utilized in the admissions process. Here we will focus on strategies identifying students who demonstrate ethical virtues in their daily actions and those who demonstrate diligence and academic potential while undertaking substantial family responsibilities. We anticipate that this project could lead to colleges across the country—including many of the 120 admissions offices endorsing Turning the Tide—adopting systems that more effectively assess key virtues and motivate students to be more generous, future-minded, reliable, and diligent. Ultimately, this work is pivotal to achieving a saner and healthier balance between young people’s self-interests and their investment in others and our collective future; to promoting diligence as a key virtue; and to advancing the college prospects of economically disadvantaged students.

Low Burden, Scalable SEL Strategies for Middle and High Schools (2016-2018)
Einhorn Family Charitable Trust

Additional resources from EFCT primarily support the testing of the strategies, specifically to expand the capacity for evaluation efforts and for more robust testing of the strategies in a third round. A third round of testing in the Spring of 2018 will help estimate the causal effects of the interventions and differs from the current round in several ways:1. We will use data from the pilot rounds (Spring 2017 and Fall 2017) to identify a small number of strategies which appear to be the most promising, both in terms of impact and in terms of teacher buy-in.2. We will randomly assign these interventions to teachers who enroll in the study, and will set aside 1/(X+1) of the teachers to serve as a control group.3. We will measure additional outcome measures of interest, including indicators of student behavior and transferability of empathy to other situations, both before and after the intervention, which will improve the precision of our estimates.4. We will collect more detailed implementation data to better understand how teachers use the various interventions.


Weissbourd, R., Way, N., and Bracket, M., (2021, Feb. 9) The pandemic is fueling a crisis of connection. The next surgeon general should tackle both. The Hill.,(2021)

Weissbourd, R., Batanova, M., Lovison, V., and Torres, E. (2021, Feb.) MCC Report, Loneliness in America: How the Pandemic Has Deepened an Epidemic of Loneliness and What We Can Do About It,(2021)

Weissbourd, R. (2020, Dec. 11) To Build It Back Better, Learn to Talk Across the Political Divide. Nations Well.,(2020)

Weissbourd, R. and Cashin, A. (2020, Feb. 20). ParentsÂ’ obsession with raising happy kids is a big problem. Boston Globe.,(2020)

Weissbourd, R. (2020, May 5) 5 ways to teach our children empathy in these challenging times. Washington Post.,(2020)

Weissbourd, R., Barnard, B., and Anderson, T.R. (2020, May 29) Will the Pandemic Revolutionize College Admissions? Wall Street Journal Saturday Review,(2020)

Weissbourd, R., Batanova, M., McIntyre, J., and Torres, E. (2020, Jun.) How the Pandemic is Strengthening Fathers' Relationships with Their Children,,(2020)

Weissbourd, R. and Cashin, A. (2019, Dec. 16). HereÂ’s How to Raise Healthy, Well-Adjusted Teens. Thrive Global.,(2019)

Weissbourd, R. and Barnard, B. (2019, Sept. 5). The college admissions process is ‘unconscionably unjust.’ Here’s one way to help change that. Washington Post.,(2019)

Weissbourd, R. and Cashin, A. (2018, Oct. 16) 5 ways parents can help kids understand consent and prevent sexual assault. Washington Post.,(2018)

Weissbourd, R. (2018, Oct.). “Let’s take a Stand Against Sexual Harassment in School,” Educational Leadership.,(2018)

Weissbourd, R. and Gardner, H. (2017, Sept. 6). The fundamental things we arenÂ’t teaching our kids. Washington Post.,(2017)

Weissbourd, R. (2009). The parents we mean to be: How well-intentioned adults undermine children's moral and emotional development. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.,(2009)

The Vulnerable Child: What Really Hurts America's Children and What We Can Do About It,(1996)

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