Emerging Best Practices- Summer 2017

On May 10, 2017, the Boston Public Schools’ Office of Equity partnered with the Boston Educational Development Foundation to host, “Emerging Best Practices: Preventing and Addressing Bias-Based Incidents in Schools,” a one-day statewide conference for district and school administrators. After a recent spike in bias-based incidents in Massachusetts schools, the conference offered educators strategies to address incidents through effective investigation and intervention, prevent future incidents, and initiate and sustain institutional change regarding broader inequities.

Over 180 superintendents, assistant and deputy superintendents, principals, students, and other school and district leaders attended the conference at the Babson College downtown campus. Speakers included Mayor Marty Walsh, Superintendent Tommy Chang, Conrado Santos of the Student Immigrant Movement, members of the BPS Office of Equity and Office of the Opportunity and Achievement Gap, representatives from model programs at school districts across the state, and leaders of bias prevention programs partnering with schools, such as the Anti-Defamation League, Coalition of Schools Educating Boys of Color, Our Restorative Justice, Suffolk University Center for Restorative Justice, and YWCA Boston.

School Advancement Grants Awarded to Four BPS Programs

Thanks to the outstanding support we received from the Boston community and beyond, we were able this year to support four Boston Public Schools initiatives with School Advancement Grants for the 2017-2018 school-year. We were both humbled and encouraged by the number of applications we received, and have continued to work with all applicants to refine their ideas and implement their programs moving forward. It is with great comfort that we award these grants to school leaders and educators who have demonstrated a thorough understanding and deep passion for implementing these initiatives to their fullest potential.

Supporting Vital Programs

In response to reduced funding, the foundation that has historically partnered with the Boston Community Leadership Academy (BCLA) to provide SAT prep to juniors is limiting their service. Starting this school year, only the to the top 25% of students whose previous scores qualified them for admission to highly competitive colleges will be eligible for continued SAT prep courses. With the funding provided through this School Advancement Grant, BCLA will be able to continue supporting their juniors with the SAT preparation, training and materials necessary to excel and stand apart during the college application process. Through the School Advancement Grant, BCLA’s track record of adequately preparing their juniors for their college application processes will go on without compromise. These are students who, in the absence of BCLA-sanctioned SAT prep courses, would not have the resources available to effectively study for the test. Now, they will be able to compete with other applicants fairly and seriously.

Summer Literacy Academy at Charlestown High School

With the funds made available through the School Advancement Grant, Charlestown High School is able to realize their vision of a Summer Literacy Academy targeted towards incoming 9th-graders with literacy skills at or below a 6th grade level. This five-week program (July 10th to August 10th) develops literacy skills in students through daily two-hour reading intensive classes. Students’ time in the program is divided between small class activities focused on independent reading, group reading, group discussion, paired reciprocal teaching, and listening activities. Through the Summer Literacy Academy, Charlestown High School will be able to forge a lasting base of literacy skills that will serve these students immensely throughout the entirety of their high school careers and on into their adult lives. By providing these students the instruction they need to avoid failure at the beginning of high school, they will preemptively set them up for sustained success in all their academic undertakings to follow.

Arts Electives Program at Fenway High School

An integral element of Fenway High School’s sustained success has been a robust and multifarious arts program that students enter in the 10th grade. Fenway High School currently works with six partners throughout a comprehensive variety of mediums to construct this diverse and enriching arts program. As the maximum grant amount sustaining this program has decreased, Fenway High School was staring directly into a future where this rich arts program would surely face fiscal constraints limiting its scope and effectiveness. With the funds provided through this School Advancement Grant, not only will Fenway High School be able to retain the partners that make their arts program so exceptional, they will be able to meet larger incoming classes of 10th graders that are consistent with student population growth patterns and will be able to extend some arts programming to 9th grade classes as well.

MakerSpace at The Sarah Greenwood School

With the funding provided by this School Advancement Grant, the Greenwood School will build a permanent MakerSpace — an exploratory classroom where students collaborate and work with a teacher-mentor on a variety of scientific and practical pursuits including, but certainly not limited to, robotics, woodworking, computer programming and 3D printing. Students will walk away from MakerSpace with the ability to analyze complex information, creatively problem solve, work collaboratively and communicate with clarity and impact. Perhaps most importantly, MakerSpace introduces to students that failure is not only okay, but it is a cornerstone of the scientific process. By promoting a healthy attitude towards failure, MakerSpace is opening the doors for students to exercise their creativity, explore new options for existing problems, and find the importance in dedication and practice.

Envision in Boston Public Schools

Founded by Boston-based optometrist Dr. Tricia Rose, Envision Boston Giving is a program that supplies public school students across three Boston schools with free glasses and vision screenings. Envision also replaces glasses for any student who may happen to lose or break their originally provided pair. Approximately 80% of a child’s learning and educational retention during the first 12 years of their life are products of visually-dependent tasks. Envision Boston Giving is dedicated to the prevention of untreated eye problems interfering with students’ ability to learn up to their potential.

You can learn more about Envision Boston Giving through this Boston Globe article about the program.

Diploma Plus in Charlestown High School

Diploma Plus, a program designed to assist students who have not had traditional success in public high school towards completion of their degrees, was not only given the required fiscal support from Liberty Mutual to continue their operations, but was recognized across New England for a specific educator’s excellence and dedication. Sunny Pai, who has taught at Charlestown for the last 12 school-years, was nominated for the Nellie Mae Foundation’s annual Lawrence W. O’Toole Award that is accompanied by a $100,000 grant to supplement and expand the program.

You can learn more about Diploma Plus through this boston.com article about the program.

The Sarah Greenwood School Library

Thanks to the outstanding fundraising efforts and support from former Freedom Trail Foundation President Mimi LaCamera, The Sarah Greenwood School was able to completely rebuild and revitalize their library. LaCamera and Sarah Greenwood principal at the time, Alexander Matthews worked tirelessly to raise funds and garner civic investment into a complete overhaul of the school’s library, ushering in an era of engagement and excitement throughout the entire school community.

You can learn more through this Boston Globe article.