New Mission High School was awarded the School on the Move Prize in 2012, and in 2018 New Mission was the first Prize winning school to become eligible after the five-year grace period. Dr. Naia Wilson, New Mission High School’s Headmaster for the past 12 years, spoke at this year’s Prize Ceremony on the impact of the Prize and a decade of sustained improvement at New Mission.
Dr. Naia Wilson, Headmaster, New Mission High School
When our name was called as the winner of the 2012 School on the Move Prize, the feeling of confirmation was overwhelming. Overwhelming because I knew the intense amount of hard work that people were doing at New Mission. The risk and courage it takes to make the right decisions for the school community had paid off, and it was an honor for our work to be recognized. Five years later, we are still a School on the Move – we are still moving. Our story is that we never stop pushing ourselves to do better.
At New Mission, we have continued and expanded two strategies we were using in 2012. The first is building our distributed leadership model – you have to ensure that everyone is part of the solution. At New Mission, we have empowered teachers to take on new responsibilities and try things differently. Teachers work together to give each other feedback, analyze the data, and share what works. They evaluate one another to support and improve their pedagogy so they can better serve our students. To do this work, you have to leverage teachers’ strengths and experience because they are a vital piece to the puzzle – and our teachers have a deep, deep desire to do the necessary work.
New Mission’s second strategy is a commitment to true instructional rigor. Every single student is expected to graduate with an Advanced Math and English course. It’s the only way to graduate from New Mission. We institute these rigorous programs of study so that our students will do better on SATs, be college-ready, and avoid taking remedial courses once in college. Our scores have been improving because we hold all of our students to these high expectations. We have more students doing better because we expect it from everyone – that is how we keep improving.
The School on the Move award not only affirms the work you are doing is so important, but it also inspires others. All three finalist schools for the Prize are winners because they are making an important impact and they are being recognized. To be nominated is extremely inspiring and affirming and honors the school community, the parents, and the students. The whole school community feels proud and it makes people want to keep working hard. It sends the message that, in our community, failure is not an option and that success breeds success.
We cannot ever let go of the School on the Move Prize in Boston. It shines a bright light on three hard working schools and helps spread the incredible work in our schools by our teachers, students, and families. The work is never done, and we know we always can work smarter and better for Boston’s students.