Building Racial Equity into Grantmaking

By Derek Lin

Equity is at the core of our work at EdVestors and essential to our mission to: Advance equitable, meaningful education that prepares every Boston student to activate their power and shape their future. 

Over the last year, EdVestors’ staff and board engaged in a remote Strategic Planning process to build a path for the future of our work. 

Through our many conversations around our core values, strategic goals and strategies, equity rose to the top. Our first strategic goal in our new five year plan is Explicit about Equity: Equity is explicitly at the core of our decision-making and actions in pursuit of every young person in Boston having access to meaningful education. 

Key strategies toward this goal include:

  • Commit explicit resources toward our internal and external commitments to equity
  • Articulate and share our equity commitments in our partnerships and to our broader audiences
  • Make decisions with the voices, interests, and needs of those most impacted by our work at the center
  • Continuously refine and evolve our goals, approach, and commitments related to equity

With our renewed and sharper focus on equity, we began pushing forward on actionable steps, particularly around racial equity. Adapting resources from Center for Assessment and Policy Development, Race Forward/Center for Social Inclusion, and Equity in the Center, we define racial equity as a combination of:

  1. Equitable opportunities and outcomes for everyone regardless of race or ethnicity; 
  2. Meaningful involvement of those most impacted by racial inequity and racism in decision making and implementation; 
  3. Addressing root causes of inequities and systemic oppression, where we perpetuate them, and how we can work to eliminate them, leading to racial justice.

A first step for the organization was reimagining our strategic philanthropy by incorporating a more explicit racial equity lens into our grantmaking processes and goals related to several of our focus areas: BPS Arts Expansion, the School Solutions Seed Fund, and Zeroing in on Math.

With BPS Arts Expansion, we streamlined the application and modified criteria to explicitly state Culturally Responsive Instruction and Racial Equity as grantmaking criteria. Culturally Responsive Instruction aligns the proposed arts instruction with BPS’ Culturally and Linguistically Sustaining Practices (CLSP), reflecting multiple backgrounds and traditions that affirm students’ cultures and respond to their interests. The instruction can center on curriculum specifically curated for students with disabilities, English Learners, or students who have been otherwise marginalized educationally. Grants focused on Racial Equity will support projects that amplify Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) voices and narratives or entail student-driven projects that utilize the arts to advance anti-racism and racial justice.

The newly renamed Racial Equity Seed Fund is the reimagined School Solutions Seed Fund, focusing on tackling racial injustices within education structures. In Boston’s current education system, students of color, particularly Black and Latinx students, are disproportionately impacted by gaps in opportunity and outcomes. Through stakeholder conversations, partnership development, and desire to enact change, the Racial Equity Seed Fund is building an action-based learning community to implement, test, and scale solutions developed by those most impacted in schools to advance racial equity. The pillars of the learning community are to illuminate and be responsive to students’ individual backgrounds, communities, and strengths, while addressing the root causes of systemic oppression in our schools.

For Zeroing in on Math (ZioM), the newly released Request For Proposals seeks to create a cohort of schools that focus on increasing equitable enrollment and student success in math so that all students, especially Black and Latinx students, receive a meaningful math education that is affirming, relevant, and prepares them for postsecondary opportunities. Selected schools can focus on equitable math pathways, culturally responsive instruction and pedagogy, or math cultures as one of their goals.

Through our grantmaking, we hope to learn alongside our partners and communities who inspire us to drive toward racial equity and justice. There is much to do in the work ahead but we look forward to the learning we can do with peers and partners.


Derek Lin is the Manager of Communications and Programs at EdVestors.

Learn more about each application through the following links: BPS ArtsRacial Equity Seed FundZeroing in on Math

Update on EdVestors Showcase

Dear EdVestors Community,

Alongside all of you, we have been closely monitoring the COVID-19 situation as it rapidly evolves.

With the health and safety of our partners, friends, and supporters as our top priority, we have decided to cancel this year’s Education Showcase scheduled for April 7th at District Hall.

EdVestors has hosted the Showcase for 17 consecutive years and we do not make this decision lightly. Showcasing educators’ good ideas and engaging the Boston community in discussion about solutions to education’s most pressing issues is vitally important and core to our mission.

We are committed to sharing the great work of the 2020 School Solutions Seed Fund grantees and are exploring alternative options to engage in a deeper conversation with you to discuss the critical issues facing our students, teachers, and schools.

?At this time of great uncertainty, it is more important than ever to commit ourselves to the education of the young people in our city who will be the educators, scientists, health care professionals, and civic leaders of the future. Working alongside our school, district, and community partners in the coming days and weeks, we will find ways to continue our important work.

While we are saddened to not host the Education Showcase this year, please know that we will continue to carry on our work with the same commitment and conviction. Thank you for being part of our community.

Please stay well and take good care of each other,


The Team at EdVestors

School Solutions Seed Fund: 2019 Investments

The eight initiatives in the 2019 School Solutions Seed Fund cohort are supporting immigrant students and their families, building culturally responsive and affirming schools, and strengthening classroom instruction.

April 9th: EdVestors 17th Education Showcase

Find out what the hottest issues in urban education are at this year’s Showcase, which will feature extended time to directly engage with teachers, school leaders and non-profit partners, who are tackling the most pressing challenges in Boston’s schools through EdVestors’ Seed Fund. In addition to learning about a range of key urban education issues and schools’ innovative and practical solutions, guests will have the opportunity to deepen their knowledge of the immigrant experience in Boston schools or explore how schools are honoring race and identity in the classroom. We are also excited to highlight a conversation on re-imagining high school education  with Jal Mehta, PhD, Associate Professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and author of soon-to-be-released In Search of Deeper Learning.


Click here to RSVP.

Seed Fund Spotlight: Designing Engaging Learning – Project-based Learning Math and Science

Excerpt from North Bennet Street School as part of their 2018 Annual Report.

North Bennet Street School has a long history of successful partnerships with other schools in Boston. The programs focus on project-based learning, which offer all students the opportunity to succeed, especially those who don’t perform well in a typical classroom setting.

This past year marked the most recent collaboration of this kind, occurring with the Donald McKay K-8 School. Funded by the EdVestors’ 2018 School Solutions Seed Fund, the new program extends the School’s reach to East Boston, a diverse community just across the harbor from our North End neighborhood.

The pilot program brought two sixth-grade classes to NBSS once a week to craft “objects” (in this case, name tags and pencil boxes), which showed students how seemingly abstract knowledge can translate to the real world. These projects were specifically designed to explore volume, fractions, and surface area standards that students were already learning as a part of their sixth-grade required curriculum.

“Our goal was to get the students more engaged with the math curriculum through hands-on problem solving,” says Katie Theodoros, Director of Continuing Education at NBSS. “We also worked with their teachers to show that project-based learning can be valuable in generating excitement about math, especially at an age when some kids are losing interest in that subject.”

The successful collaboration between NBSS and Donald McKay K-8 School was mutually beneficial. The school’s teachers discovered a new way to implement learning standards with fun activities that encourage exploration and problem-solving. For NBSS, this partnership was the perfect opportunity to craft these types of programs, ensuring that they’re well-received by students of all abilities and that the outcomes are meaningful.

Katy Peake, lead faculty member for the McKay School, saw firsthand how students worked through some of these projects. She points out how much it offered her students. “It was definitely the most enjoyable part of the school day,” says Katy. “These projects really helped kids who don’t do well in traditional learning environments like reading groups, lectures, or writing assignments. They gave those students a chance to excel.”

“These projects really helped kids who don’t do well in traditional learning environments like reading groups, lectures, or writing assignments. They gave those students a chance to excel.”

In addition to the intended outcomes of the partnership, the collaborative program also enhanced students’ moods, self-expression, engagement, and enthusiasm for learning. Trips to NBSS likewise offered students a break from their regular academic schedule.

Katy enjoyed the time she was able to connect with her students while working through the projects together. “An overwhelmingly positive aspect of the experience was being able to spend time with students while they were creating something,” she says. “I was learning right alongside them, too—trying things out, and even messing up! It helped me develop a closer relationship to my students overall.”

Staff from North Bennet Street School and Donald McKay K-8 School at the 2018 EdVestors Education Showcase. From L-R: Katie Theodoros (NBSS), Elissa Kaufman (McKay), Katy Peake (McKay), Principal Jordan Weymer (McKay), Melissa Gallin (NBSS), and Laura Goffin (NBSS)


The Donald McKay K-8 School were named the 2018 School on the Move Prize winner.

To learn more about EdVestors’ work in Career and Technical Education, click here.

Affirming Students’ Identities: Supporting LGBTQ+ Students and their Peer and Adult Allies

The LGBTQ+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Questioning, and more) Inclusive Schools initiative was one of ten initiatives selected for EdVestors’ 2018 School Solutions Seed Fund cohort.  Five Boston high schools, in partnership with the Boston Public Schools (BPS) Office of Safe & Welcoming Schools, reached out to EdVestors to provide support to both school staff and to students to create more inclusive, welcoming, and safe environments for students identifying as LGBTQ+. The following is an exchange between Alison Stevens, EdVestors’ Senior Director of School-Based Investments, and Danielle Murray, BPS Safe & Welcoming Schools Specialist.

How does the Boston Public Schools’ (BPS) approach to creating LGBTQ+ inclusive schools compare to other districts?

BPS is on the forefront of the work that schools and districts are doing to support and affirm LGBTQ students.  BPS has strong policies to support and affirm all students, and they are pairing that with practices that look at instructional equity for LGBTQ students.

Research from GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network) has found that there are four interventions that help create safer school climates for LGBTQ students:

  1. Developing safe and affirming anti-bullying/harassment school policies for LGBTQ students.  BPS leads the way in this area and is consider a national model.
  2. Ensuring students can identify allies in their community.  Through the staff training program called “Out for Safe Schools” teachers in BPS can complete trainings to develop the skills and approaches to support LGBTQ+ students and earn an ally badge.
  3. Ensuring LGBTQ students have access to Gay/Straight (or Gender/Sexuality) Alliances (GSAs).  Thirty-two out of 34 of our high schools have GSAs in high schools, and several middle schools are forming them as well.
  4. Providing LGBTQ youth LGBTQ inclusive curriculum in their classes.  The focal point of this grant from EdVestors is helping schools to expand experiences for students in this area.  The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education is among a few states leading the nation in LGBTQ inclusive curriculum. Boston Public Schools is piloting some of the State’s LGBTQ history curriculum units this coming fall and pairing them with professional development opportunities for teachers.

Another initiative that BPS has undertaken is the Welcoming Schools program.  At BPS the Welcoming Schools program provides K-5 educators with professional development, suggested books and classroom activities to support LGBTQ and gender inclusive classrooms.  By beginning these supports in elementary schools, BPS is committed to creating safe and affirming spaces for LGBTQ students at all levels.

How are the five participating high schools approaching the LGBTQ Inclusive Schools professional development opportunity?

All five schools – Another Course to College (ACC), Boston Green Academy, Boston International & Newcomers Academy, Charlestown High, and New Mission High School – went through a process with their Gender-Sexuality Alliance (GSA) advisors and GSA members to identify the needs for professional development in their school.

Schools chose professional development on a range of topics, from building staff’s knowledge of terminology and understanding of gender identity, to providing teachers with LGBTQ+ inclusive curricular materials and teaching guides. One 6th through 12th grade school with an existing high school GSA worked with middle grade teachers to define what a middle school GSA would look like.

In all our schools we saw an enthusiastic response from teachers and educators when given the opportunity to gain more skills for this work, and to have access to resources that deepen the work of LGBTQ inclusivity.  One teacher commented how the professional development “help[ed us] think about how gender and sexuality shape students’ daily experiences in school and in life.”

What are you hearing from students about the impact of this work?

The responses from students have been extremely positive.  In addition to supporting LGBTQ+ students in GSAs, we organized a Summit for all BPS schools in May.  The BPS LGBTQ+ Summit brought 175 students from 25 schools together.  These students came together to find strength in their community and to develop the power in their collective voices.

I had the opportunity to visit with several schools following the Summit, and to hear how important this event was to students across the district.  One seventh grader, whom I vividly remember for his carefree laugh at the Summit, spoke to me a few days later.  He said, “I’ve never felt like that before. I’ve never been in a big group where I could totally be myself.”

JP’s JFK STEM Innovation School’s Pilot Program Honored at Urban Education Showcase

The April 18, 2018 Jamaica Plain News article, “JP’s JFK STEM Innovation School’s Pilot Program Honored by Non-Profit EdVestors”, shares about the John F. Kennedy STEM Innovation School’s pilot program presented at EdVestors’ 16th annual Showcase. From the article:

The John F. Kennedy STEM Innovation School shared results of its pilot program, Engineering Design in Literacy, that integrates the Engineering Design Process into their literacy curriculum, according to a press release. Through the program students design solutions and create functioning prototypes to address challenges faced by characters in the books they are reading. The pilot program includes a partnership with Tufts University’s Novel Engineering program, teachers and students to create solutions found in fiction and non-fiction books.

Read the full article here and learn more about the School Solutions Seed Fund here.

Success of language program nets Mattapan elementary school $30,000

The April 11, 2018 Boston Herald article, “Success of language program nets Mattapan elementary school $30,000″, highlights EdVestors’ 16th annual Showcase and the winner of this year’s Philip H. Gordon Legacy Award, the Mattapan Early Elementary school. From the article:

The Mattapan Early Elementary School — with a first-in-the-nation Haitian Creole dual-language program for early education — has been recognized with a $30,000 prize that will help it grow and become a model. The Phil H. Gordon Legacy Award from EdVestors, a nonprofit focused on improving urban education, recognizes schools that are leveling the playing field for all students to learn. The school has been transformed, teachers say, from the once struggling Mattahunt Elementary School that has now closed, to a school where students are learning in two languages…

It was one of 10 teacher-led school projects aimed at bringing in new ideas and ways of learning in Boston-area schools to address issues many are struggling with. The 10 projects each received $10,000 grants from EdVestors to launch and test the initiatives from January to June. Money supports teacher training and allows teachers to get time out of the classroom to research programs and ideas.

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

School Solutions Seed Fund: 2018 Investments

The ten initiatives in the 2018 School Solutions Seed Fund cohort are engaging students in authentic learning, honoring students’ diverse backgrounds and identities, and above all, leveraging the power of teacher leadership.

EdVestors Seed Fund 2018: Growing Active and Engaged Communities

by Alison Stevens, Senior Director of School-Based Investments

It is abundantly clear that young people are emerging as powerful players in our civic discourse and our democracy. The initiatives in this year’s School Solutions Seed Fund cohort are preparing Boston’s students to be active and engaged denizens of their communities by building on students’ natural creativity, passions, and desire to learn.

The 2018 Seed Fund cohort is engaging students in a variety of ways: connecting classroom learning to real-world issues, and honoring the assets of students’ diverse backgrounds and identities. Students in these schools are finding their voices and discovering their own agency as creative problem solvers.

Engaging Young People in Solving Real-World Problems

Three initiatives in this year’s cohort of grant recipients are exploring project-based learning opportunities within their schools and classrooms, where students have the opportunity to design their own solutions to real-world challenges. At Excel High School in South Boston – one of three Boston schools implementing the Linked Learning approach to create career and technical education pathways – teachers are building a business technology pathway to prepare students with technical certifications and soft skills to be successful in a variety of business and entrepreneurial fields. To ensure all students have access to the benefits of [project-based learning, special education and English learner teachers are participating in externships at local businesses to integrate relevant work skills and curricular units into their classes and student supports.

At the Donald McKay K-8 School in East Boston, 6th grade students and math and science teachers are traveling weekly to the North Bennet Street School in the North End to tackle a variety of woodworking projects. While the students try their hands with chisels and sandpaper, teachers are learning how to use these hands-on experiences to help students build their math skills, from geometry to fractions.

Students at the John F. Kennedy STEM Innovation School in Jamaica Plain are applying creativity, knowledge, and a scientific approach to tackle diverse challenges. Teachers are working with Novel Engineering at Tufts University to integrate STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) throughout their curriculum. Elementary students take the time to analyze the plight faced by characters in the books they are reading and then design – with found materials and objects – three-dimensional machines or tools to help the characters tackle challenges.

Building Civic Engagement

Two initiatives are focused on preparing young people to be active and engaged civic participants. At New Mission High School, which recently added its first-ever 7th grade class, students are exploring social activism through both new and traditional media. During bi-weekly Advisory periods, students research current events, conduct interviews, develop positions, and create online content. At City on a Hill Public Charter School – Circuit Street, students, with the guidance of their teachers, are learning to resolve conflicts and understand the impact of their decisions through the Restorative Practice approach.

Valuing Culture and Identity as Assets

Recognizing the value of diverse backgrounds and perspectives allows schools to build on students’ and families own strengths and assets, and develop respect for differences. At the Mattapan Early Education School (MEES), the newly launched Haitian Creole dual language program is educating native Haitian Creole speakers alongside English-speaking peers for whom Haitian Creole is a way to connect with their family members and culture. Students are becoming bilingual, biliterate, and bicultural. They are learning to look at language and culture through multiple perspectives, skills which are vital to a healthy democracy and understanding of others.

Students and faculty at five Boston high schools – Another Course to College in Hyde Park, Boston Green Academy in Brighton, Boston International & Newcomers Academy in Dorchester, Charlestown High, and New Mission High School in Hyde Park are working together to create school environments that are inclusive and supportive to LGBTQ+ students. With the support of the BPS Office of Safe and Welcoming Schools, teachers and Gender-Sexuality Alliance (GSA) advisors are receiving professional development around incorporating LGBTQ+ representation and content into course curricula, and LGBTQ+ students and allies are creating opportunities for leadership and connection across schools.

Across these initiatives and others in this year’s School Solutions Seed Fund cohort, young people are learning to be leaders and problem-solvers, active civic participants and agents of change.

Please join us on April 10th, 2018 at this year’s Urban Education Showcase (4-6pm, District Hall in the Seaport District) to learn more about all of the initiatives in this year’s School Solutions Seed Fund cohort, and hear how Boston’s educators are growing our next generation of engaged contributors to society.