by Randy Clemens
The history of education reform is the history of trends. Movements come and go and then come back again, oftentimes refashioned with new rhetoric or different twists. Community-based reforms, which are becoming increasingly popular, are no different. The recurrence of social movements in this instance, however, may be beneficial.
Jane Addams and Ellen Starr founded Hull House in 1889. They offered an array of activities and services, including clubs, lessons, day-care, and literary and adult learning programs. Benny Goodman, a renowned jazz musician, even received lessons at Hull House. The value of the settlement house was the ability of thoughtful individuals to create programs based on the needs of the community.
In 1895, Addams and others published Hull-house Maps and Papers. It was a record of the surrounding neighborhood and provided rich descriptions of the living conditions of residents. The influence of Maps and Papers cannot be understated; it guided the activists and the famous Chicago School of Sociology.
Hull House provides an example of researchers undertaking projects and producing knowledge in order to solve contextually-bound social problems. Both the University of Southern California and Center for Higher Education Policy Analysis incorporate aspects of Hull House into their projects. USC’s Neighborhood Academic Initiative provides services to neighborhood students and families in order to improve educational and social outcomes. Similarly, CHEPA developed a game to teach the rules of the college application process and provides mentoring services for high school students and a summer program for college-bound students. Both acknowledge the university’s responsibility to create programs and produce knowledge that directly improves the surrounding neighborhoods.