EdVestors is proud to salute our late co-founder, Philip H. Gordon, for his many contributions to the field of urban education and philanthropy through the Philip H. Gordon Legacy Award. The annual $50,000 Award recognizes an important school improvement effort that will help level the playing field in education so that every student has the chance to succeed.
2016 Award Winner: ABCD at Dorchester Academy
As schools seek to shift away from punitive discipline policies that exclude students from critical learning experiences through suspensions or expulsion, it can be challenging to replace those policies with approaches that build students’ skills to resolve conflicts themselves.
Dorchester Academy enrolls approximately 150 high school students, including many who are considered at high risk for dropping out. As a school with a history of under-performance, Dorchester Academy was recently named a Turnaround School by the state and is partnering with Action for Boston Community Development (ABCD) to run the school. As one of its key strategies, the Dorchester Academy team is training faculty, staff and students in partnership with Suffolk University in a Restorative Practices (also known as Restorative Justice) approach to address a rate of school suspensions that was three times the district average. This approach builds community on a daily basis and teaches skills to resolve both small and large conflicts among students.
At a time when traditional disciplinary practices often disproportionately impact students of color, identifying alternative approaches that build relationships between adults and students, and among students themselves, is vital for thriving learning communities.
2015 Award Winner: Patrick J. Kennedy Elementary School
The Patrick J. Kennedy Elementary School in East Boston was selected in 2015 for its approach to providing a strong start to newly arriving English language learners. The Kennedy School is a traditional district school serving 300 students in grades PreK-5. Three-quarters of their students are English language learners, many of whom arrive at the school – in September and throughout the year – with little or no English language skills. Last spring, with the help of a Seed Fund grant, the Kennedy School piloted an Acceleration Clinic with first graders, meeting with small groups of students two to three times per week, often before or after school, to accelerate their language acquisition and allow them to participate more fully during the school-day.
The $50,000 Gordon Legacy Award allowed the Kennedy School to expand the Acceleration Clinic to kindergarten where many of the challenges that teachers saw in first grade were already developing. Typically, 30 students receive support during each six-week cycle, after which students are assessed and either re-enrolled in the Acceleration Clinic to continue building their skills or “graduate” from the program.
In addition to strengthening students’ academic foundation, the PJK faculty have also experimented with non-academic interventions such as building students’ working memory, a critical skill for learning and applying language. School leaders describe the Acceleration Clinic as the “incubation zone” of the school where good ideas are tested with small groups of students and the successful ideas are shared with classroom teachers to support strong whole-classroom instruction.
2014 Award Winner: Boston Day and Evening Academy
The inaugural Philip H. Gordon Legacy Award went to Boston Day and Evening Academy (BDEA), an alternative high school that has had great success re-engaging some of our city’s most disconnected youth.
BDEA is a BPS in-district charter school for students who are at least 16 years old and two or more years behind grade-level. The school’s nationally-recognized competency-based model assesses students’ knowledge, gives them credit for what they have already learned, and allows teachers and students to target specific gaps in a student’s education in order to successfully complete a course, rather than requiring all students take the same courses based on age and course progression.
The $50,000 Gordon Legacy Award has enabled BDEA to share its competency-based instructional model with two additional alternative education programs in Boston, effectively connecting more off-track youth to the opportunity to earn a diploma. BDEA teachers and administrators have provided training through a week-long summer institute and regular coaching and support to Charlestown High School and ABCD University High School teachers. This has enabled both schools to align their teaching and assessment practices with Common Core standards using a competency-based approach. These partnerships demonstrate the power of sharing best practices to increase the success of Boston’s most vulnerable youth.