Congratulations to the Gardner Pilot Academy - our 2022 School on the Move Winner! Watch the event recording here.

Initiatives / School on the Move Prize / 2021 Winner

2021 Winner

Winner: James Otis Elementary School

Neighborhood: East Boston
Grade Levels: K1-6
Number of students: 410
Principal: Paula Cerqueira-Goncalves, since 2010

Located in East Boston, the James Otis Elementary School with a population of 410 students has a 3-strand classroom model including General Education, Inclusion, and Sheltered Immersion classrooms. Nearly three-quarters of the student population has a first language other than English. Reflective of the student diversity, Otis teachers are also multilingual.

Primary School Improvement Strategies:

  • Strong Leadership and Collaboration: Strong leadership at the school has helped to develop a family community at the Otis. All staff work together to ensure the success of each student, and families are welcomed into classrooms to observe student learning.
  • Partnerships: The Otis has leveraged partnerships with local universities and community organizations to provide teacher professional development, increase student engagement in STEM, and provide material aid during the pandemic.
  • Meeting the Needs of Students: The Otis’ commitment to helping all students reach their full potential includes providing wraparound services to families and providing professional development focused on race and critical consciousness to teachers, enabling students to see themselves in their learning.

The Structure to Enable the Culture: Academic Family Engagement at the James Otis Elementary School

As the 2021 EdVestors' School on the Move Prize Winner, the Otis stood out as a school practicing highly effective engagement strategies. EdVestors partnered with Learning Experience Design Research at Charles River Media Group (“LXD Research”) to shine a spotlight on practices that succeed at The Otis to demonstrate “what works” when educational communities foster intentional partnerships between schools and families.

The research is highlighted in this blog post. Research findings have been synthesized into an actionable toolkit for educators and administrators.


We invite you to explore the Academic Family Engagement (AFE) Toolkit using the links below. The examples and guidance in the toolkit are designed to be used individually or together as suits your school’s context, capacity, and needs. The message from the Otis is that effective engagement simultaneously rolls out and evolves over years and happens on a daily basis. Try one of these research-based engagement strategies today and let us know your experience by emailing Heather Johnson at

  • Overview/Key Findings: A summary of the practices at the Otis and the components of the toolkit, including quotes from various members of the Otis community. Click here to access the document.
  • Essential Conditions: A set of eight conditions that enable successful academic-focused family engagement. Click here to access the document.
  • Educator Survey Infographic: Results from a survey of educators at the Otis highlighting their experiences at the Otis and the benefits of partnering with students, families, and colleagues. Click here to access the document.
  • Action Guide: From smaller touchpoints to larger activities and events, recommendations for school-based actions to foster and celebrate academic achievement, curiosity, and goal setting. Click here to access the document.
  • Communication Guide: Communications strategies to nurture, grow, measure and celebrate connections between schools and families. Click here to access the document.
  • Self-Reflection Checklist: Questions to reflect on current practices and consider how to boost academic-focused family engagement in your school. Click here to access the document.
  • Sample APTT meetings (Kindergarten and Grade 4): Examples of presentations used in Academic Parent-Teacher Team (APTT) meetings, demonstrating multiple approaches to structured opportunities for family-teacher engagement. Click here for the Kindergarten meetings and here for the Grade 4 meetings.

Want to learn more? Interested in seeing these practices in action? Email Paula Cerqueira-Goncalves, longtime Principal at the Otis, at or Heather Johnson at