Virtual EdHeadliner: School Improvement Strategies with Principal Jason Gallagher

In our most recent Virtual EdHeadliner, Principal Jason Gallagher from the 2019 School on the Move winner Harvard-Kent Elementary joined President and CEO Marinell Rousmaniere for a conversation on fostering an environment for positive school climate as a catalyst for school improvement.

With nearly two decades of school improvement work alongside Boston’s educators, we have empirically learned core elements of driving and sustaining improvement: Strong leadership and shared ownership, Meaningful teacher collaboration, Effective use of data, Academic rigor and student support, and Effective family and community partnerships. While these essential components are clear, the challenge of weaving together these elements to put into practice is complex and important to shine a light on.

Located in Charlestown, the Harvard-Kent serves nearly 400 students in Pre-K through 5th grade. The Harvard-Kent serves the highest percentage of children living in public housing of any Boston school. It is home to a specialized program for students learning English as well as a therapeutic program for children with emotional disabilities.

Listen in on the conversation as Principal Jason Gallagher discusses his path in education that has shaped his leadership style and desire to create authentic relationships within the whole Harvard-Kent community. Principal Gallagher covers the pivoting to remote learning amidst COVID-19 and the work he and his staff have carried out in sustaining success as they expanded to a Pre-K through 6th school this year.

EdVestors Awards 15th Annual $100,000 School on the Move Prize to the F. Lyman Winship Elementary School in Brighton

The Winship is being recognized for rapid improvement in providing a quality education through STEAM-based experiences to meet the needs of a diverse student population reflecting

35 different countries

Charles Sumner Elementary School in Roslindale and the Edward M. Kennedy Academy for Health Careers in Fenway, each received a $20,000 runner-up prize.

A PDF version is available here.

(BOSTON) October 28, 2020 – EdVestors, a school improvement nonprofit organization, today awarded its $100,000 Thomas W. Payzant School on the Move Prize to the F. Lyman Winship Elementary School in Brighton, a school that provides high quality STEAM-based instruction and intensive student-centered services to one of the most diverse student populations in the city. The Prize, now in its 15th year, recognizes rapidly improving schools that have made exemplary progress in advancing the academic achievement of all students.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has required our teachers and school leaders to think creatively to ensure our students are engaged and learning to their fullest potential,” said Mayor Martin J. Walsh. “I want to congratulate the F. Lyman Winship and the finalists for their hard work and dedication to Boston’s students always, but especially throughout the challenges of this pandemic.”

The winner was announced during a virtual event and ceremony this afternoon. Latoyia Edwards, Anchor for NBC 10 Boston / NECN served as emcee for the Prize Ceremony, which featured key business, civic, and education leaders. Fellow finalist schools, Charles Sumner Elementary School in Roslindale and the Edward M. Kennedy Academy for Health Careers in Fenway, each received a $20,000 award – double the usual runner-up prize thanks to a generous donation. The virtual event was produced by WGBH, live streamed via Zoom, and is available to view at https://wgbh.zoom.us/rec/share/0_M2Mgk9OMOT-fCWoLEuhVPSc3UDK8eYnbAGG4fYbFZhuK2uMWhbwFb9Q5dGm7hT.4XCv6lFShAynNFUr Passcode: eNEdCq4. (Note: include the period in the passcode)

“The three finalist schools represent the critical work schools across the city are doing to improve educational opportunities for Boston’s young people during what continues to be a challenging year for schools, teachers, students and their families,” said Marinell Rousmaniere, President and CEO of EdVestors. “We are excited to shine a spotlight on the Winship as this year’s Prize winner and share the effective strategies they are using to meet the diverse needs of their students. As we look forward, their lessons should light the way for other schools to chart their improvement path.”

With 240 students in K1-5, the Winship is a small elementary school located near Brighton Center. Their student population reflects more than 35 different countries; almost half the students speak a language other than English at home. The school credits their steady improvement over the years to revamping their school pedagogy and an emphasis on student-centered learning. The Winship focuses on providing students with education through STEAM-based experiences.

“It is a great honor to be recognized by this year’s School on the Move Prize, which is a reminder that it is the daily work, the consistent work, the sometimes not glorious work of meeting individual kids’ learning needs and continuing to grow as educators that made this improvement possible,” said Brian Radley, Principal of the F. Lyman Winship Elementary School. “The opportunity to be at the table for rich discussions about innovation, experimentation, and promising practices that are working for kids and families across the district is so exciting to us.”

The School on the Move Prize is based on a rigorous quantitative screen of student achievement using historical and current state standardized assessment data. The Winship showed steady improvement across several key areas including the following:

  • Use of Data – The Winship used student data to implement supports and instructional practices that aim to improve student engagement and achievement.
  • Professional Development – The Winship’s professional development has centered on defining their Instructional Focus and Creating Student-Centered Learning Environments. The school’s professional learning is grounded in culturally responsive teaching.
  • Instructional Practice – As a direct impact of the above two strategies, the Winship moved to school-wide implementation of classroom practices that adopt rigorous, student-centered learning opportunities that are engaging and meet the current and diverse needs in the school community.

“All three schools prove that talented teams of teachers, staff and administrators working together to support students and families – and each other – is a winning combination,” said Dr. Brenda Cassellius, Superintendent of Boston Public Schools. “As we navigate this new reality in public education, BPS is fortunate to have such exemplary leadership and collaboration to look to within our own community. Congratulations to the F. Lyman Winship for a well-deserved award. Their hard work and dedication to serving the individual needs of a diverse group of students is a model for all of our schools.”

The Thomas W. Payzant School on the Move Prize is made possible by generous support of lead sponsor – the James M and Cathleen D. Stone Foundation – along with foundation and corporate sponsors including BerryDunn, Eastern Bank, Eaton Vance, Fidelity Investments, Fiduciary Trust, Goldman Sachs, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Larson Family Foundation, Insource Services, Liberty Mutual Insurance, Parker Family Foundation, Plymouth Rock Assurance, Rockland Trust Bank, Simon Brothers Family Foundation, State Street, and William Schawbel & Schawbel Group, among other generous organizations and individuals.

 

About EdVestors

EdVestors’ mission is to increase the number of public schools in Boston delivering dramatically improved educational outcomes for all students. Our goal is to ensure that every Boston student has access to an equitable, meaningful education that prepares them to activate their power and shape their future. We combine strategic philanthropy, education expertise, and implementation support to help schools improve. EdVestors seeds promising ideas through the School Solutions Seed Fund, shines a spotlight on school improvement through the School on the Move Prize, and scales efforts to close opportunity and achievement gaps through three strategic initiatives: Boston Public Schools Arts Expansion, Zeroing in on Math and our newest effort to expand Career Pathways. Learn more at www.edvestors.org.

#schoolonmove                       @edvestors                 http://www.edvestors.org

 

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Harvard-Kent awarded $100,000 for advancing academic achievement

The October 31, 2019 Boston Globe article by Maria Lovato, “Charlestown school awarded $100,000 for advancing academic achievement”, describes the 14th annual School on the Move Prize Ceremony on October 31 that featured 3 Boston Public Schools: the Manassah E. Bradley Elementary School in East Boston, the Thomas J. Kenny Elementary School in Dorchester, and the 2019 winner, Harvard-Kent Elementary School in Charleston. From the article:

The Charlestown school was awarded EdVestor’s 14th annual $100,000 Thomas W. Payzant School on the Move Prize.

“Exceptional schools like the Harvard-Kent are the soul of our city and I applaud the teachers and staff for their commitment to educating and empowering Boston’s young people,” Mayor Martin J. Walsh said in a statement.

Two finalists for the award, the Manassah E. Bradley Elementary School in East Boston and the Thomas J. Kenny Elementary School in Dorchester, each received a $10,000 prize during a ceremony Thursday morning.

Read the full article here and learn more about the School on the Move Prize here.

Lessons in Deeper Learning from the McKay K-8 School

By Emily Barr

At the 2019 School on the Move Prize Ceremony, EdVestors and the Rennie Center for Education Policy & Research released new research on the 2018 School on the Move Prize winner, the Donald McKay K-8 School. The case study, detailing the improvement story of the McKay, focuses on the importance of creating deep, engaging, and relevant learning opportunities for students and outlines the conditions necessary for these deep learning opportunities to take root in classrooms across the school.

In 2013, the McKay was ranked in the bottom 6 percent of schools statewide. The building was characterized by a “closed door” culture where teachers didn’t have opportunities to learn from their colleagues. By 2018, there was a visible shift in culture to a school where adults are committed to learning and growing together.

Today, the McKay is a school where teachers—and subsequently their students—have the freedom to be creative and learn together. The McKay transformed from a place where learning was quiet and highly structured to a place where learning is noisy, active, engaged, and more relevant to students’ daily lives

“The McKay used to just be a school for students to come in and focus on work. But it has changed into something else: a place where students and teachers come to overcome anything that stands in their way, to learn from their mistakes, and explore new things.”

-6th grade McKay student

The case study outlines how the school shifted from a top-down approach to one of distributed leadership over three phases:

1. Principal-directed focus on instruction

 The summer before his first year as principal, Jordan Weymer heard a concern from teachers that current instruction did not adequately support, challenge, and engage students. He decided to focus initial efforts on building teacher capacity to deliver standards-aligned and engaging instruction, while looking ahead to create systems to eventually shift from principal-driven reform to teacher-empowered improvement. A crucial prerequisite for this work was creating a culture of trust where teachers were willing to ask for support, try new strategies in the classroom, and see mistakes as an opportunity to grow.

“School transformation is all about attending to both the professional and the personal.”

-Jordan Weymer, Principal of the McKay

2. Building Teacher Leadership

In the 2014-2015 school year, the McKay identified the time and the methods to increase effective teacher collaboration; they made changes to the master schedule and hired a consultant to provide leadership coaching to teachers who raised their hands to take on this role. Teacher leaders at each grade level were now directly involved in identifying schoolwide priorities and communicating decisions to grade-level teams. As teacher leadership increased, administrative involvement decreased. Teachers were immediately seeing the impact of their feedback on schoolwide priorities for curriculum and instruction, as well as on the broader school culture.

“We became really close as a grade-level team. You can walk into any of our classrooms and we’ll be doing the same thing… We’re able to brainstorm and help each other.”

-McKay teacher

3. Students at the Center

As teachers began shaping schoolwide priorities, deepening student engagement rose to the top of the priority list and took form in a variety of new ways, including a focus on student voice. Lessons where students shared their own personal stories became integrated into classrooms, such as researching, recording, and editing their own podcasts to be sent into the NPR Podcast Challenge. The McKay brought in expertise from Boston University’s Student Discussion Lab to make sure efforts to increase student voice in the classroom were being addressed with an equity lens.

The McKay’s need to support the whole child became more urgent as teachers recognized the negative impact the national conversation around immigration was having on students and families. Staff provided support for undocumented students and families around the school through posting caring messages and disseminating information on legal rights around the school.

With the increase of student voice and agency strategically cultivated in classrooms, students had developed the skills to take matters into their own hands to drive change in their school and community. They organized the first annual Immigrant Pride week in 2018, which culminated in a school-wide immigration rally that expanded to a neighborhood-wide march in 2019.

Seeing the impact that relevant learning opportunities have on student outcomes, McKay teachers and staff are excited to deepen this work by more actively engaging students and families in classroom and schoolwide decision-making, giving instructional voice to the most important stakeholders of all.

“I was selected to be in student government and made big changes not only in our school but also all around the community. We made a successful pep rally, planned a small walk-out, made signs and posters, designed t-shirts, and displayed immigrant pride to show how much we support immigrants. We are planning another successful Immigrant Pride Day, got new windows, better food, new painted hallways, new furniture, new fun equipment, newly painted doors, and a healthy vending machine.”

-7th grade McKay student

 

Read the full case study here.

Learn more about the School on the Move Prize click here and to read more about McKay’s story of change in WBUR’s feature article.

Building a Culture of Deeper Learning at the Donald McKay K-8 School

Learn how our 2018 School on the Move Prize Winner, the Donald McKay K-8 School in East Boston, transformed from a place where learning was quiet and highly structured to a place where learning is noisy, active, and engaging. The Donald McKay K-8 School joins a select group of rapidly improving schools, recognized by EdVestors’ annual School on the Move Prize.

This case study documents the three phases of the McKay’s school improvement journey, which has resulted in a school community where students and teachers have the freedom to be creative, to learn by doing, and to experiment with new methods of learning that are relevant to students’ daily lives.

 

School on the Move 2019 Program Book

On October 31st, EdVestors presents the 14th Annual Thomas W. Payzant School on the Move Prize to one of Boston’s most improving schools. Learn more about the Prize and 2019’s finalist schools.

EdVestors Awards $100,000 School on the Move Prize to the Harvard-Kent Elementary School in Charlestown

School that serves the largest number of students in public housing wins high praise for academic growth and cultivating a culture that is equal parts supportive and rigorous

(BOSTON) October 31, 2019 – EdVestors, a school improvement organization in Boston, awarded its $100,000 Thomas W. Payzant School on the Move Prize to the Harvard-Kent Elementary School in Charlestown, a school that serves the largest population of students in public housing in the entire Boston Public School district. The Prize, now in its 14th year, recognizes rapidly-improving schools that have made exemplary progress in advancing the academic achievement of all students.

Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh and BPS Superintendent Dr. Brenda Cassellius announced the winner at a ceremony at the InterContinental Boston this morning. Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education Commissioner Jeffrey C. Riley also attended the Prize Ceremony, along with key business, civic, and education leaders. Fellow finalist schools, the Manassah E. Bradley Elementary School in East Boston and the Thomas J. Kenny Elementary School in Dorchester, each received a $10,000 prize.

“Exceptional schools like the Harvard-Kent are the soul of our city and I applaud the teachers and staff for their commitment to educating and empowering Boston’s young people,” said Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh. “I congratulate all three School on the Move Prize finalists for setting the example that by working together, we can boost outcomes for students and ensure they receive a high-quality and enriching education.”

The 400-student Harvard-Kent Elementary has seen steady improvement over the past few years in both literacy and math while also narrowing achievement gaps.It was also recognized for exceeding performance targets set by the state, one of 14 BPS schools to do so in 2019, and one of four BPS schools to do so for two years in a row. The Harvard-Kent credits its improvement to a commitment to maintaining a culture that is both safe and welcoming for students while also being academically challenging, and a structure that supports the unique needs and learning styles of all learners.

“All three of this year’s finalist schools are a testament to what is possible when educators focus on the key practices that drive improving schools,” said Marinell Rousmaniere, President and CEO of EdVestors. “We commend each of the School on the Move finalists for focusing on deep relationships with and rigorous academics for students to prepare them for promising futures, and for giving other schools a roadmap for continued improvement.”

Jason Gallagher, the principal of Harvard-Kent, said his school focuses first on creating a positive environment for their young learners.

“The most important thing we do every day is offer a safe and welcoming school to our students and families,” explained Gallagher. “We want to make our kids feel like they are in the best school not just in Boston, but in the country. If you are a member of the Harvard-Kent school community, we want you to feel important, loved and valued. And, we want you to become a proficient reader, writer and mathematician.”

The Harvard-Kent’s student population is uniquely diverse within Boston Public Schools. The school community is racially diverse, with nearly equal numbers of Latino, Asian, Black and Caucasian young people represented in the student body. Over half of the student body are English Learners, a quarter are students with disabilities, and more than two-thirds are economically disadvantaged.

In addition to embracing this diversity and creating an inclusive atmosphere for all students, the school teams up with community partners aligned with school priorities to deepen student engagement and learning as well as connection with the surrounding neighborhood. Once the school day is over, after-school math and early literacy programming helps meet children’s  individual learning needs, another priority of Gallagher, who notes that, “oftentimes we talk about meeting the needs of groups of students, at the Harvard-Kent we really try to individualize it.”

Further, a “School Climate Team” comprised of teachers, staff, families and the school psychologist supports and maintains their welcoming and caring school community. All of the Harvard-Kent’s efforts have paid dividends, with their children’s ELA test scores rising steadily before eventually passing the district averages.

“The entire BPS community is proud of the Harvard-Kent for this well-deserved recognition,” said Dr. Brenda Cassellius, Superintendent of Boston Public Schools. “All three of the finalist schools work hard every day to create positive learning environments that include in- and out-of-school supports for students and families, along with the belief that every student can achieve success.”

The Thomas W. Payzant School on the Move Prize is made possible by generous support of lead sponsors the James M and Cathleen D. Stone Foundation and Liberty Mutual Insurance, along with corporate sponsors including  Berkshire Bank, BerryDunn, Boston Private, Eaton Vance, Fidelity Investments, Fiduciary Trust, Goldman Sachs, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Insource Services, jetBlue, LEGO Education, Liberty Mutual Insurance, Microsoft, Nellie Mae Education Foundation, Plymouth Rock Assurance, Rockland Trust Bank, and State Street among other generous organizations, foundations and individuals.

ABOUT EDVESTORS

EdVestors’ mission is to increase the number of schools in Boston delivering dramatically improved educational outcomes for all students. EdVestors is a school improvement organization that combines strategic philanthropy, education expertise, and implementation support to help schools create the conditions for school change. EdVestors seeds promising ideas through the School Solutions Seed Fund, shines a spotlight on school improvement through the School on the Move Prize, and scales efforts to close opportunity and achievement gaps through three strategic initiatives: Boston Public Schools Arts Expansion, Zeroing in on Math and our newest effort to expand Career Pathways. Learn more at www.edvestors.org.

#schoolonmove           @edvestors                 http://www.edvestors.org

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Media contact:

Travis Small

617-538-9041

tsmall@sloweymcmanus.com

 

A roadmap for school improvement

The October 30, 2019 CommonWealth Magazine op-ed by Marinell Rousmaniere, “A roadmap for school improvement ”, highlights the three 2019 School on the Move finalists and describes the common key practices observed throughout the years for school improvement. From the article:

Our first study examining early School on the Move winners documented the common approaches that were taken to garner improvement. Our second research piece looked at what happened to those schools in the years following the prize process, highlighting the steps the schools were taking to sustain improvement. Over the years, we identified common practices shared by winning schools to gain and sustain improvement, as well as the barriers faced by schools in maintaining their success in subsequent years.

Read the full article here and learn more about School on the Move here.

Five years later, a school still on the move

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 celebrates with New Mission High School staff as they are announced winner of School on the Move in 2012.

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.

 

Read more about New Mission’s improvement strategies in the full case study here and to learn more about the School on the Move Prize click here.