SUPERINTENDENT MARY SKIPPER begins his term at a critical time for Boston Public Schools – a time when the state, families, and other stakeholders are demanding quick action and accountability to improve aspects of the system that have let our students down for too long . The job in front of Superintendent Skipper is undoubtedly daunting, but also presents an opportunity to effect meaningful change for the 48,000 public school students who are currently in her care. Instead of letting past shortcomings and current obstacles become a self-fulfilling prophecy, the district should build on its existing positives and strengths to improve student learning outcomes.
Leverage partnerships to multiply opportunities
Strengthening existing partnerships – and forging new ones – will be essential to the future success of students, schools and districts. Boston is a partner-rich city where community nonprofit organizations, institutions of higher education, and employers have established close ties with the city’s schools and youth. Harnessing and expanding these important partnerships and models of collective action will be key to improving student learning outcomes.
For example, BPS’s 5th Quarter Summer Learning is a collective effort of 150 organizations providing access to high-quality summer learning opportunities for over 17,000 students. After School Boston and Beyond serves as the coordinating entity for these offerings – a partner of partners, so to speak – ensuring program quality, shared learning and greater equity.
BPS also has long-standing partnerships with companies and organizations that provide internships and other work-based learning opportunities for high school students in the district. For example, through the Thomas M. Menino Learning LabLaunched in 2014, Vertex Pharmaceuticals provides year-round opportunities for youth to participate in hands-on lab experiences, access structured mentorship from Vertex staff, and gain real-world work experience through internships.
BPS Arts Extension is a well-established and coordinated effort where public and private partners across the city work toward the common goal of expanding access to arts education in BPS. This effort has enabled 17,000 more students to access arts education during the school day each year and may provide a blueprint for future efforts to expand access to learning opportunities in other areas. of content.
With Superintendent Skipper setting the vision, partners can bring critical capacity to district implementation efforts, enhancing the breadth and depth of opportunities for students.
Watch examples of school improvement
Superintendent Skipper can also look to examples of school improvement to shape her strategy. There is good work happening in many of our schools that Superintendent Skipper has the opportunity to celebrate and replicate during her tenure.
Via EdVestors Moving School Awardeach year we collect examples of BPS schools that have improved learning outcomes for their students that contradict the mainstream narrative of decline. National search and the work done by EdVestors and the Rennie Center for Educational Research and Policy identified several key practices that enable schools to improve and sustain progress.
This year’s School on the Move award finalists — Channing Elementary in Hyde Park, Gardner Pilot Academy in Allston and Charles H. Taylor Elementary in Mattapan — exemplify these practices in their pandemic recovery efforts. Along with last year’s winner, James Otis Elementary School, these schools exhibit facets of strong leadership and shared ownership; meaningful teacher collaboration; effective use of data; academic rigor and student support; and effective family and community partnerships that support school improvement.
While there are undoubtedly great challenges ahead in the District, many of the resources Superintendent Skipper needs are in our own backyard ready to be deployed. Moving forward, it should leverage the extensive network of deeply invested partners and leverage the lessons of BPS’s Improved Schools to ensure that every student has access to a quality education worthy of Boston’s youth.
Marinell Rousmanière is President and CEO of EdVestors. To commemorate EdVestors’ 20th anniversary, the organization is hosting a “20/20 Series” of commentaries in CommonWealth, sharing insights gathered over 20 years to address the challenges facing public schools today. This is the second part. Read the first episode here.