Over years of research, The Education Redesign Lab has found that opportunity is strongly correlated to income. Studies show that low-income children are less likely to be ready for kindergarten — and the gap often grows from there, exacerbated by exposure to stress and fewer opportunities to enroll in out-of-school enrichment like summer programs. To overcome this disparity, education must stretch from cradle to career and incorporate the range of support necessary to close the opportunity gap and ensure success for all children.
One way to meet this goal, the lab suggests, is for community leaders to form a “Children’s Cabinet” (a cross-sector group of stakeholders charged with overseeing the well-being of children and the community) to support children at all stages of development. The lab has partnered with The Children’s Funding Project to release a guide for mayors and other municipal leaders to help structure the creation of Children’s Cabinets and meet the needs of a range of communities.
Key steps to help mayors, superintendents, leaders in higher education, health officials, and community members establish and structure their own children’s cabinet:
Create buy-in. A collaboration between a variety of stakeholders, ranging from public health officials to the local librarian, can often require overcoming competing or divergent interests. As a result, all members of a Children’s Cabinet need to be on the same page and move forward with the same goals in mind.
- Find common ground. All stakeholders invited to take part in the cabinet should have a shared interest in the present and future challenges faced by the children in that community. Make sure to articulate this commonality.
- Support your interest with data. Data that supports the need for a children’s cabinet could be related to school achievement or perhaps showcase a growing health concern. Use statistics but also be sure to include the stories of community members as well.
- Clearly articulate how a children’s cabinet can solve that problem. The Education Redesign Lab has compiled several case studies on how children’s cabinets developed effective solutions. Use existing models of success to bolster your proposal.
Craft a vision and a mission statement. The purpose of the children’s cabinet will determine which stakeholders need to have a place at the table, as well as its structure. Start with a one-sentence summary of your overall vision as a leader and what it looks like for children. Then, narrow in on the activities and strategies that the cabinet might use to accomplish that goal.
Create structure. No two cabinets need to look the same. In fact, cabinets across the country have found success using a range of structures. What’s important is that the structure fits the cabinet’s purpose and the needs of the community.
Set goals and define success. Goals should be big picture and broad to allow room for collaboration among different sectors, rooted in the established needs of the community’s children, able to inform the creation of a data dashboard or a budget, and driven by equity.
- Indicators of success should be:
- Readily accessible. Consider using data that is already being tracked.
- Easy to understand and support.
- Balanced across ages and populations and between positive and negative outcomes.
- Able to reveal disparities along gender, racial, ethnic, socioeconomic, and other key lines.