Ronald F. Ferguson is an MIT-trained economist who focuses social science research on economic, social, and educational challenges. He has been on the faculty at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government since 1983, after full time appointments at Brandeis and Brown Universities. In 2014, he co-founded Tripod Education Partners and shifted into an adjunct role at the Kennedy School, where he remains a fellow at the Malcolm Wiener Center for Social Policy and faculty director of the university-wide Achievement Gap Initiative (AGI).
During the 1980s and ‘90s Ron focused much of his attention on economic and community development. That work culminated in the social science synthesis volume Urban Problems and Community Development (1999), which remains an important text in graduate policy courses.
By the late 1980s he had begun to study education and youth development because academic skill disparities were contributing to growing wage disparity. During the 1990s and early 2000s, his writings on the topic appeared in publications of the National Research Council, the Brookings Institution, the U.S. Department of Education, and various books and journals. In December 2007, Harvard Education Press published his book Toward Excellence with Equity: An Emerging Vision for Closing the Achievement Gap. A February 2011 profile of Ron in the New York Times wrote, “there is no one in America who knows more about the gap than Ronald Ferguson.”
For the past several years, Ron’s focus as AGI director has been an initiative first entitled the Boston Basics. Now renamed simply The Basics, the project has moved out of Harvard into a nonprofit organization, The Basics, Inc. Beginning in 2016, implementation has spread to more than three-dozen other cities in The Basics Learning Network. The Basics Strategy takes a socio-ecological saturation approach, collaborating with many partners to reach extended families with with five The Basics Principles of caregiving advice for parenting infants and toddlers.
Also focused on parenting, Ron and co-author Tatsha Robertson have written The Formula: Unlocking the Secrets to Raising Highly Successful Children, published in February, 2019. Based on the life stories of extremely successful young adults, as told by them and their parents, the book reveals on eight principles or parental roles that appear repeatedly throughout the stories of families from a wide range of racial, ethnic, and income-level backgrounds.
Ron holds an undergraduate degree from Cornell University and a PhD from MIT, both in economics. He is happily married and the father of two adult sons.
Academic Journal/Scholarly Articles
Sponsored projects include research, training, convening, and other initiatives externally funded through grants, contracts, and cooperative agreements. Funding sources can include the US federal government, state and local agencies, private foundations, corporations, and foreign entities (public and private).
The below list includes all sponsored projects in progress or completed within the current and past 2 calendar years, administered at the Harvard Kennedy School under the direction of the named faculty member as Principal Investigator. Please note that this list includes only those activities supported by external sponsored funding; other sources of support are not included (e.g., philanthropy, HKS or Harvard internal resources).
Harvard Kennedy School is proud of its energetic involvement in the world. To better understand how to solve public problems by improving policy and leadership, we engage directly with policymakers, public leaders, governments, nonprofit organizations, and for-profit businesses whose activities affect those problems. However, we recognize that such engagement can raise questions about perceived and potential conflicts of interest, so we disclose publicly the key professional activities of our faculty outside the Kennedy School.
Outside Professional Activities For Ronald Ferguson
Ron Ferguson participates in a variety of public policy advising and consulting activities. He is a founding equity partner of Tripod Education Partners, Inc, which provides student and teacher surveys and related services to school districts in the U.S. and abroad. Tripod Education Partners is now home to the Tripod Project for School Improvement, which had been delivered in collaboration with Cambridge Education of Westwood MA fromm 2007 through 2014. Professor Ferguson is a co-owner (along with Freshpond Education, Inc.) of Tripod Education Partners, Inc, which owns the intellectual property of the Tripod surveys developed over the past decade through work with school districts. Professor Ferguson is also on the Board of Directors of The Basics, Inc., which is a non-profit organization founded to disseminate "The Basics" of early childhood caregiving, a project which grew out of the work of the Achievement Gap Initiative at Harvard, which he heads. There are currently 27 localities across the United States that are delivering the Basics in their communities as part of the Basics Learning Network. Professor Ferguson provides speaking and consulting services to some of these communities and often receives a consulting fee as compensation for that work.