The purpose of the symposium is to confront the reality that to overcome achievement gaps and promote academic proficiency for all children, we must tackle the full range of opportunity gaps faced by children from backgrounds of concentrated poverty, including health-, home-, and community-related barriers to learning, as well as inequities in academic opportunities. To meet the economic challenges of an increasingly “flat world,” to head off the disintegration of our polity by preparing all students to be capable civic participants in our democracy, to eliminate achievement gaps and fulfill the moral imperative of ensuring that a child’s racial, socioeconomic, or family background no longer predicts that child’s educational attainment, our nation must adopt a comprehensive, whole-child approach to educational equity and provide meaningful educational opportunities for all.

At the symposium, we intend to review current research on these issues, examine the experiences of important demonstration projects like the Harlem Children’s Zone and the Rochester Surround Care Community Corporation, and the community schools movement. We then intend to advance current conversations and public policy in this area by presenting a concrete analysis of the actual costs of providing a range of the most essential services to children from birth through age 18, mapping current federal, state and local spending in these areas, and making specific proposals for legislative action to better coordinate existing services and provide additional necessary services on a sustained basis to meet children’s comprehensive needs.