19 Boston Education Organizations Call on Mayoral Candidates to Detail Plans for Education at Public Forum

Candidates Give No Airtime to #1 Issue Among Voters

[Boston, October 8, 2021]

https://www.actboston.org/education-forum-press-release/

We — the members of ACT Boston — call on our two mayoral finalists, City Councilors Michelle Wu and Annissa Essaibi-George, to engage in a live public discussion of their plans and priorities for improving Boston’s deeply inequitable public education system. Recently, our coalition and its 19 member organizations — which represent thousands of students, families, and educators — were disappointed to learn that no public forums dedicated to discussing preK-12 education in our city prior to the election have been planned.

Education was ranked as the #1 issue on mayoral voters’ minds in the most recent public poll. The Mayor will oversee a $1.3 billion annual education budget — a third of the city’s budget — as well as the spending of an additional $430 million in federal education recovery funding over her term. More than 50,000 school-age children attend Boston Public Schools, and there are tens of thousands of additional students in Boston currently enrolled in public charter schools, METCO, or private schools, and early education outside BPS. These children and their families and caregivers deserve to hear more details from these candidates on how Boston’s next mayor will make education a priority.

It is urgent that Boston’s next mayor is willing to engage in an in-depth public discussion of preK-12 education issues in our city. Stakeholders and voters need to be able to ask questions about their vision, plans, and priorities before the November election. This issue cannot be ignored.

We implore both candidates to participate in a public forum that our coalition will co-sponsor prior to the November 2nd election. It would be done in partnership with a major media partner and would be live-streamed so Boston families, students, and voters can hear where each candidate stands on this critical issue.

About ACT Boston: 

All Children Thrive (ACT Boston) is a non-partisan coalition of non-profit and community-based organizations raising awareness of educational inequities in Boston and holding city leadership accountable for equitable opportunities and outcomes for all of Boston’s children. Learn more at actboston.org.

Our member organizations include: Boston Opportunity AgendaBoston Plan for ExcellenceBoston Schools FundBoston SpEdPACEast Boston Social CentersEdNavigatorEdVestorsGeneration CitizenHyde Square Task ForceLatinos for EducationOneGoalSchoolFacts BostonSmart Start BPSThe Education TrustThe Steppingstone FoundationThe Teachers’ LoungeUnion Capital BostonUnited Way of Massachusetts Bay & Merrimack Valley, and West End House.

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MEDIA CONTACTS:
Deb Colbert, deb@teakmedia.com
Dominic Slowey, dslowey@sloweymcmanus.com

EdVestors Reinforces Commitment to High-Quality Arts Education with over $400,000 in Arts Expansion Grants

EdVestors Reinforces Commitment to High-Quality Arts Education with over $400,000 in Arts Expansion Grants

Grants announced on the heels of new longitudinal study showing greater access to arts education leads to improvements in a range of indicators of student success and parent engagement

(PDF of Grant Recipients List)

BOSTON (June 15, 2021) – Building upon its longstanding commitment to ensuring all Boston Public School (BPS) students have access to a high-quality arts education, EdVestors today announced over $400,000 in arts expansion grants that will support nearly 75 schools working with more than 35 arts partners across the city. These grants for the 2021-2022 school year take on new significance in light of results of a longitudinal study released last month detailing the benefits of arts education, including increased student and parent engagement and improved attendance for all students.

“These critical grants will ensure that students have continued access to high-quality arts programs, which will be more important than ever as we promote joyful learning environments to support students’ recovery next fall,” said Dr. Brenda Cassellius, Superintendent of the Boston Public Schools. “When students permanently return to the classroom after more than a year of disrupted learning, arts instruction will play a pivotal role in helping them re-engage with their peers, teachers, and school communities and will improve their social-emotional skill development and overall well-being.”

Last month, EdVestors released a study entitled “The Arts Advantage: Impacts of Arts Education on Boston Students,” which examined the positive impacts arts education has had through more than 600,000 K-12 student-level observations over 11 school years, 2008-2009 through 2018-2019. Such granular data will be invaluable to policymakers and school districts as they make decisions on allocating funding for the arts – both in the long-term and in the immediate aftermath of the pandemic.

“The new research reinforces the purpose of our ongoing BPS Arts Expansion initiative and confirms what we’ve witnessed firsthand over the years. Arts education is a powerful motivator for students to want to attend and engage at school and enables them to express themselves and succeed in ways they often don’t in other subjects,” said Marinell Rousmaniere, President and CEO of EdVestors. “Thanks to our core funders and dedicated partners, we are embarking on the 13th year of BPS Arts Expansion, with the continued goal of increasing equitable access to quality arts education for all of Boston’s public school students.”

“We look forward to partnering with EdVestors once again for this coming school year,” said Alison Croney Moses, Program Director of the Eliot School of Fine & Applied Arts. “We’re grateful for the support that allows us to ensure that young people have access to essential experiences for their development.”

Since its inception in 2009, BPS Arts Expansion has leveraged increased public funding for arts teaching positions in BPS schools, resulting in nearly 17,000 additional students receiving arts instruction during the school day. BPS arts educators working in partnership with community-based teaching artists and organizations have made this work possible. The initiative continues to focus on expanding access to equitable arts education and deepening arts experiences, while building systems to sustain a high level of arts education long into the future.

Core donors include the Barr Foundation, the Boston Foundation, The Klarman Family Foundation and Linde Family Foundation. Notably, there has been a significant 5:1 return of increased public investment for every private dollar invested through BPS Arts Expansion. More information on BPS Arts Expansion is available at http://www.bpsarts.org.

 

Media Contact:

Dominic Slowey

dslowey@sloweymcmanus.com

781-710-0014

 

ABOUT EDVESTORS

EdVestors’ mission is to advance equitable, meaningful education that prepares every Boston student to activate their power and shape their future. We drive toward our vision by 1) activating people and resources, 2) learning and iterating in context, and 3) influencing system change. We believe that continuously attending to all three drivers ensures our programs and initiatives will create impact. Since starting in 2002, EdVestors has raised and directed over $35 million for urban school improvement efforts through EdVestors’ Racial Equity Seed Fund, BPS Arts Expansion, the School on the Move Prize, Zeroing in on Math, and Career Pathways. Learn more at www.edvestors.org

 

#BPSArts4All             @bpsicreate     @edvestors    http://www.edvestors.org

 

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Designing Virtual Internships in the Creative Sector: Final Thoughts

This blog is part of a series on Designing Virtual Internships in the Creative Sector drawing from experiences managing the Bloomberg Arts Internship program in Boston through sharing the learnings and key takeaways for effective creative youth development and employment models.

The challenges of life during a pandemic and future implementation

Living  during a pandemic took a toll on everyone connected to the BAI program this summer and the toll felt by the interns was especially challenging. For three students the circumstances of the pandemic were too much to balance with the requirements of the internship and they made the decision to leave the program. In assessing these cases, several observations came to the surface.

  • Engaging with the interns’ families is critical. Especially in a remote model, families and caregivers are essential sources of support and can assist the interns in prioritizing and navigating their work experiences and personal responsibilities.
  • Even when interns had to make hard decisions about leaving the program, interns learned important career lessons in professional communication around difficult conversations and follow up.

Another learning was that remote experiences can offer a wealth of quality opportunities, however there are still times when in-person connections are both helpful and more impactful. From a program design standpoint, it is not simply one or the other (remote versus in-person) that defines a successful program design. Based on this observation the BAI team is preparing for a hybrid model in 2021 which will allow for the flexibility and maximization of key program elements to be implemented with impact and safety in mind. 

The lessons learned from the Boston BAI summer of 2020 offer insight into how a remote summer employment program can engage and support high school interns. Even after the summer ended the cohort of youth remain connected to one another and meet for informal “hang-out” sessions online. The Alumni Advisory Council, comprised of 2019 and 2020 BAI program alums, leads and provides peer support through these gatherings. 

As the Boston BAI program staff plan for the 2021 summer, there are successful program elements and experiences that can inform key aspects of the program model and are applicable for future summer internship program design regardless of whether the program is in-person or remote. The importance of the right partners, accessing quality adult mentors, creating opportunities for interns to develop transferable skills and emphasizing the interns’ identities as artists and creators are all learnings that will assist in creating a strong program model in the future.

While the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact our community, the staff remain both vigilant to the safety of program participants and partners while remaining open to the possibility of greater in-person program opportunities in 2021. 

Learn more about the Bloomberg Arts Internship Boston program on our youth-created website.

Designing Virtual Internships in the Creative Sector: Connecting Artistry to the Workplace

This blog is part of a series on Designing Virtual Internships in the Creative Sector drawing from experiences managing the Bloomberg Arts Internship program in Boston through sharing the learnings and key takeaways for effective creative youth development and employment models.

BAI Boston 2020 Logo and Design Mockups from BAI Interns

Empowering interns to express themselves through their art provides a safe space to form relationships with peers, mentors, and colleagues. This self-expression fosters their development not only as artists but as young professionals as they begin to connect their skills through the arts with relevant career skills.

Using arts as a theme encouraged and promoted interns to “share their best selves”, find commonalities with one another and with their worksite supervisors, and provided a platform for self-expression and youth voice.

The Boston BAI program builds on the best practice principles and characteristics of Creative Youth Development (CYD), which see young people as active agents of their own change, with strengths and skills to be developed and supported. 

Each week began with the interns attending a Monday morning 30-minute zoom group check-in led by EdVestors Internship and Program Coordinator, Jeremy Gooden. These gatherings set the tone for the week, with fun group activities, sharing of program logistical updates, and an easy, welcoming touchpoint for the interns as they started their week. At these sessions the interns shared their goals for the week and what they were looking forward to accomplishing at their worksites. The full cohort of interns also met every Friday in longer sessions that included additional group building activities that supported interns connecting with each other and building deeper relationships as a group. 

The interns reported at the end of the summer how close they had grown as a group and this connectedness developed to a large degree as a result of the Monday and Friday weekly meetings. Jeremy facilitated engaging and fun activities that allowed the interns to relax, be themselves and laugh together. Their creativity was a key part of the gatherings as the interns were encouraged to share their artwork with each other in addition to connecting over the shared experience of having remote summer internships through the program. Icebreakers, games and use of the chat function on Zoom to elicit quick responses to questions related to how they were feeling kept the sessions lively and allowed for maximum participation by the interns regardless of their personalities or comfort with using their cameras.

The program components explicitly created an experience that supported self-expression and youth voice: through the twice-weekly cohort zoom gatherings; the personal and professional coaching which encouraged interns to think of themselves as artists, youth leaders and network-builders; along with the strong worksite experiences and wrap-around supports. 

For example, while Sara saw herself as a visual artist, she reflected that she did not have as much time as she would like to focus on her art. Being part of the BAI program allowed for more of that.

“The BAI [cohort of interns] had a different dynamic because everyone was into art and it created an atmosphere that I liked, people in the program had a lot of good ideas [about their artmaking].”

The solid connections among the intern cohort started through the summer experiences and continued after the program ended with ongoing monthly “chill sessions” facilitated by the alumni council. These sessions were self-determined by intern alumni, and provide an example of how the skills the interns developed as program participants carried over into their experiences as alumni. As one alumni council member said, “Being in the program I learned how to be more comfortable talking to people I don’t know. It gave me confidence and as a council member I was able to help the newer interns by being someone for them to ask questions and get support.” 

An arts-based internship program can provide opportunities for participating interns to develop skills that are transferable and relevant across industries sectors. 

This lesson is relevant during an in-person program as well, however it is worth noting that the remote experience increased student exposure to digital products that are used across organizations regardless of industry sector. The interns gained familiarity and agility with tools that will likely become mainstays of the new workforce environment such as Zoom and other virtual communication platforms. They also gained specialized competencies such as website design, marketing (especially via social media), and how to utilize Microsoft Office or Adobe products for research, analysis, and presentation. Due to the remote format nearly all students completed their internship with a digital artifact of their skill development, which can be added to their e-portfolio, resumes, and LinkedIn profiles as they pursue new opportunities within and beyond the arts sector. 

As an example, Zorely had conversations with her supervisor, Morgan at CMCB, about her goals and identity as an artist. Zorely asked to learn about arts opportunities that she might pursue beyond performance. Zorely discussed with Morgan how music could fit into her future. She knows she can return to music in the future and that she can take the lessons learned from her training into any space.  She expressed that music is the source of her confidence, something that she leverages readily in her STEM internships (she is interested in studying bio-engineering) and public speaking. She was recently a student panelist  in the Boston PIC’s 2020 STEM Showcase.

Ziane at Urbanity Dance improved her customer service skills as a result of the outreach calls she made, gaining comfort in speaking to people via these phone calls. She also utilized and expanded her presentation skills, some of which she had developed through her school and church. This made her realize how knowledge gained in one place can be utilized in another. “I realized no knowledge is lost and it can be used to connect with people in different settings.”

BAI students gained and consistently demonstrated transferable competencies such as adaptability, collaboration, self-advocacy, networking, and creating your personal and professional brand. Based on alumni engagement of the 2019 and 2020 cohorts, BAI alumni leveraged their skills in architecture/digital fabrication intensives, website design, launched new businesses, and made intentional efforts to network for new opportunities using their connection to EdVestors. 

Coming up in the next blog, Final Thoughts. 

Learn more about the Bloomberg Arts Internship Boston program on our youth-created website.

Designing Virtual Internships in the Creative Sector: Worksite Experiences: Urbano Project

This blog is part of a series on Designing Virtual Internships in the Creative Sector drawing from experiences managing the Bloomberg Arts Internship program in Boston through sharing the learnings and key takeaways for effective creative youth development and employment models.

 

A central factor in the success of the 2020 Boston BAI program was the strong worksites and work-based projects for the interns. The staff and supervisors at the 11 arts and culture institutions that hosted the interns provided thoughtfully planned work experiences that engaged the interns with interesting projects and responsibilities. The following is an example of a meaningful worksite experience.

Urbano Project

Urbano Project is a nonprofit that brings together practicing visual artists, local youth, and community members to learn and experiment through place-based projects. Urbano supports youth to become civically engaged artists as they are challenged to tackle current social issues in their community that directly affect their lives. 

Urbano is a small organization with just four staff so they planned to integrate their intern, Sara, into a number of different roles and projects within the organization. This was Urbano’s first time in the Boston BAI program and amidst the complexity of the summer, they were able to draw on their youth-centered, creative and flexible approach to programming in order to provide a high quality internship experience.

Given this youth-centered perspective, the staff dedicated time to relationship building and expectation setting at the outset: getting to know Sara, learn about her interests, and hear what skills she wanted to use and develop over the summer. As Pennie Taylor, one of the staff said:

“Urbano is a small team, collaborative in nature, everyone works together and wears multiple hats. This was how we approached the internship, identifying a number of projects that we wanted Sara to be a part of, conferring with her as to what aligned best with her interests, but also making clear there were some things we needed her to do that might not be at the top of her list.”

This youth-centered approach was central to every element of the internship at Urbano. A goal they had for Sara was to have her provide them with an on-the-ground youth perspective that they found enormously valuable. The staff benefited from her insights as she provided an important feedback loop and saw the summer project from a different angle than the staff. Pennie said, “It was like having a youth on our board, to offer an essential perspective to the decision-making and direction of the organization.”

At the intersection of cultivating good workplace habits and CYD orientation, Sara was treated like the other youth who participated in Urbano’s summer programs. All youth at Urbano are given clear messages about accountability (such as being on time), meeting timelines and accomplishing deliverables. As a result, the supervision and expectations for Sara were natural extensions of how they work with youth more broadly and cultivate skills that are needed in any work environment.

Sara herself offered insight into why the internship was successful. She liked having multiple roles, working on communications projects such as updating the organization’s website using Instagram posts. She also helped to organize the photos in their google drive so they could publicize and post about their programs more easily. In addition to doing this work, she participated in their summer arts program, which gave her insight into how that program operated and helped her provide feedback to her supervisors. 

(See link for more information on the project Urbano youth worked on this summer)

Coming up in the next blog, Connecting Artistry to the Workplace.

Learn more about the Bloomberg Arts Internship Boston program on our youth-created website.

Designing Virtual Internships in the Creative Sector: Worksite Experiences: Community Music Center of Boston

This blog is part of a series on Designing Virtual Internships in the Creative Sector drawing from experiences managing the Bloomberg Arts Internship program in Boston through sharing the learnings and key takeaways for effective creative youth development and employment models.

 

 

 

 

A central factor in the success of the 2020 Boston BAI program was the strong worksites and work-based projects for the interns. The staff and supervisors at the 11 arts and culture institutions that hosted the interns provided thoughtfully planned work experiences that engaged the interns with interesting projects and responsibilities. The following is an example of a meaningful worksite experience. 

Community Music Center of Boston
Community Music Center of Boston (CMCB) is an arts education nonprofit with a mission to transform lives by providing equitable access to excellent music education and arts experiences. Serving over 4,000 students in their programs weekly, CMCB has programs in most neighborhoods in Boston, in-school, after-school, and in the summer.

From their experience in the 2019 pilot year, CMCB planned their 2020 internships with added intentionality and thoughtfulness to complement other BAI components. For example, key staff leadership began discussing how students could best fit into CMCB’s workflow 2-3 months prior to the program starting. They wanted their internships to be more student-centered and the structure for the intern positions were conceptualized with this in mind. They carefully planned what the interns would be working on but they also wanted to remain flexible so the work was built around each individual intern’s skills, interests and desired areas of growth.

During this time, CMCB was completing a strategic planning process, which included reflection on the topic of youth voice which was timely for the BAI design, according to Morgan Beckford, COO:

“Going through the strategic planning process had us turn up the dial on the need for more youth voice in our programming. It gave us the opportunity to discuss with the young people what worked and didn’t work for them in their schools and this factored into the experience we planned for the summer.”

Building off the organization’s CYD approach to working with young people, CMCB built in a regular weekly time for their 4 interns to meet and work with one another on a specific project. This time seemed to increase their engagement at work, giving more opportunity for their voices to be heard and for them to work as a team. At the conclusion of each 1.5 hour meeting they completed a project or task and saw a piece of work through to its completion.

Another key success factor for the summer was having 4 staff supervisors involved in the program. This model allowed each to take 1 week and meet with the 4 interns to share how they approach their work and what they like best about their work. This structure enabled the interns to access more adult mentors and observe that, as Morgan said, “while the 4 supervisors differed in their perspectives, they all have careers in art administration because they love their art.” CMCB staff reported that this model of shared responsibility worked well for the team and allowed for more efficient division of staff time.

CMCB staff also spent time thinking about the types of work they wanted the interns to carry out and thought about the projects that young people might be particularly well-positioned to complete. All 4 interns had tasks that incorporated technology, including building websites and creating videos describing CMCB’s registration process. BAI Intern Zorely built an online website with the goal of offering a place for students to connect more to their teachers and classes. She built the site using a google web platform with which she had prior experience.

From Zorely’s perspective, this was one of her best work experiences. She felt that the staff treated her with respect and listened to what she had to say. She reported that their goal was to have good communications with everyone, giving her the space to be herself and be comfortable asking questions. One of her favorite aspects of the internship was being part of the staff discussions at staff meetings. She felt the staff listened to the interns and were given the space to talk, and feel included. 

“They did a really good job of making us feel like we were part of the team and not just somebody on the screen.” 

Coming up in the next blog, Worksite Experiences: Urbano Project

Learn more about the Bloomberg Arts Internship Boston program on our youth-created website.

Designing Virtual Internships in the Creative Sector: Developing Wrap-around Supports and Authentic Relationships

This blog is part of a series on Designing Virtual Internships in the Creative Sector drawing from experiences managing the Bloomberg Arts Internship program in Boston through sharing the learnings and key takeaways for effective creative youth development and employment models.

Created by a BAI Boston Intern

Designing virtual internships with adequate wrap-around supports and structures is critical for interns to be supported personally and professionally. A coordination between EdVestors staff, families, program partners, and worksites ensures interns are in an environment where they can thrive.

Virtual youth internships are effective with the right worksite staff and wrap-around supports.

The necessity of operating an entirely remote summer employment program in 2020 presented a range of challenges that the BAI team had to address. In addition to ensuring each intern was equipped with the technology necessary to participate remotely, the program model also required additional staff attention to the quality of the remote internship placements and ongoing communication with the worksites to ensure the updated job responsibilities reflected the new reality of remote work placements. EdVestors staff developed clear criteria for selecting worksites that led to the identification and selection of arts and cultural institutions which were well suited to supervise and support high school-age interns. The worksite criteria included:

  • Being able to provide meaningful and fully developed work opportunities;
  • Having a clearly defined job description with an arts administration or production focus; 
  • Familiarity with and commitment to employing a Creative Youth Development approach in program design and implementation, and
  • Having experience working with and/or mentoring teens.

EdVestors staff recognized the potential challenges of working and supervising high school interns remotely and they worked closely with their worksite partners to acknowledge these challenges and provide support. Establishing a strong mentor-like connection with a new intern remotely was challenging and these relationships benefitted from the arts and culture worksite supervisors being warm, engaging and proactive in their efforts to make connections with their interns. 

When worksites encountered challenges, they did not hesitate to inform EdVestors staff so they could intervene and provide support as needed. This is reflective of EdVestors role as an arts education intermediary with more than a decade long tenure of partnership with the Arts and Culture community. In a year where everyone needed support, organizations and individuals alike, EdVestors with the support of Bloomberg Philanthropies leveraged its vantage point as an intermediary to provide increased financial resources to worksites, both acknowledging the increased workload to redesign and providing critical resources to an industry sector deeply affected by the economic fall out of the pandemic.

EdVestors staff also held small group listening sessions, surveyed, and provided one-on-one assistance to worksites so that the resulting internship fit well within the organization’s capacity in a pandemic context and was still mutually beneficial to students and organizations. EdVestors modeled a similar relationship-building approach with worksites as they did with students, including supervisor check-ins and follow-up throughout the summer. EdVestors provided timely day-to-day technical assistance when worksites needed additional support connecting with students, resolving technology issues, and continued to adapt as the summer moved forward. Several of the supervisors mentioned how valuable they found the support from EdVestors in addressing any obstacles they encountered.

Furthermore, the central elements of the program beyond the worksite placements also had to pivot to utilizing a remote platform, while still ensuring that these essential elements added to the quality of the interns’ experience. Critical changes included restructuring the weekly schedule to provide more community building touchpoints facilitated by EdVestors staff and breaking the intern cohort into smaller groups in order to facilitate remote learning for both writing and coaching. The EdVestors staff also worked to incorporate independent time for the interns (referred to as asynchronous time) into the weekly schedule as a way of combating “Zoom fatigue.”

Structuring the program to have a wide array of adults involved in the program implementation enabled the interns to develop meaningful adult relationships and mentor-like support systems. 

By the spring of 2020, it became clear to the EdVestors staff that the BAI program would be entirely remote. With this in mind, the staff made a deliberate decision to develop additional mentor-like support from caring adults for the participating interns, given the inherent challenges associated with the interns having to work remotely. This goal was critical in the success of the summer, as the interns had an array of adults with whom they could connect and learn together. In addition to the consistent adults in the program, interns had access to one-time adult guests who added to their networks and offered resources such as career planning, mental health and financial literacy. With three active EdVestors staff, the addition of Muadi Dibinga as the personal and professional coach, and a new Alumni Advisory Council, along with their 826 tutors and CAC advisors, there were optimal opportunities for connections to be made. 

As an example, Julivic Marquez, Education Manager at Urbanity Dance, continues to focus on how the organization can support Ziane after the internship. They are supporting Ziane in the work she is doing at her high school on Diversifying Our Narrative, which includes diversifying the curriculum at her school. Urbanity remains committed to supporting her in an ongoing way, and she is having conversations with the organization’s management about accessing the Urbanity space for meetings (when they can be in-person) and also helping to promote her school project. 

Coming up in the next blog, Example of Worksite Experiences: Community Music Center of Boston

Learn more about the Bloomberg Arts Internship Boston program on our youth-created website.

Designing Virtual Internships in the Creative Sector: Bloomberg Arts Internship Boston 2020

The following blog series will provide a closer look at the Boston-specific Bloomberg Arts Internship program implemented by EdVestors and share the learnings and key takeaways for effective creative youth development and employment models.

BAI Boston 2020 Cohort along with EdVestors staff

The Bloomberg Arts Internship (BAI) is an arts-focused summer internship program in Baltimore, Boston, New York City, and Philadelphia that provides high school interns with paid work experience at cultural organizations along with work readiness and college preparation support. In 2019, EdVestors was selected to be the Boston partner responsible for implementing the BAI program. After a successful pilot summer, EdVestors and the Boston team responded to the COVID-19 pandemic by quickly redesigning and implementing an entirely remote summer program model with the continued support of Bloomberg Philanthropies.

The Boston BAI team was not alone in their efforts to adjust quickly and thoughtfully. For the summer of 2020, Boston’s program went forward with the full support of Mayor Walsh who added $4.1 million in city funding to support new youth employment opportunities and the city’s Summer Jobs Program (this included SuccessLink at the City’s Department of Youth Engagement & Employment, Action for Boston Community Development, John Hancock’s MLK Scholars Program, Youth Options Unlimited managed by the Mayor’s Office of Workforce Development, and the Boston’s Private industry Council or Boston PIC). The Boston PIC played an important role in supporting and overseeing the administration of many of the over 3,000 youth employment opportunities citywide. In addition, as was the case in 2019, the PIC was a critical partner for the BAI program, managing the recruitment, interview and student HR needs for the program.

The BAI program is distinct within the ecosystem of summer youth employment programs in Boston due to its integration of the arts as a central facet of the program model. Potential interns are recruited knowing that their worksites will be arts-focused organizations. The interns’ interest in the arts or identity as artists are key elements of student recruitment and hiring. 

In addition, the program incorporates a Creative Youth Development (CYD) approach and philosophy into the program design, which along with creativity and art-making includes: elevating youth voice and leadership; teamwork;  increased self-identity that leads to more personal expression, and connection building. The program also offers opportunities for them to make connections with an array of potential mentors and expand their networks via their worksite supervisors and contacts with program partners (Boston PIC, 826 Boston, executive coach Muadi Dibinga, College Advising Corps).

Below are Lessons Learned from our experience overseeing the BAI Boston program. Subsequent blog posts will dive deeper into  best practices for youth-centered creative virtual internships with direct examples from intern experiences.

Lessons Learned

  • Virtual youth internships are effective with the right worksite staff and wrap-around supports.
    EdVestors staff developed clear criteria for selecting worksites that led to the identification and selection of arts and cultural institutions which were well suited to supervise and support high school-age interns. Partnering with arts and culture organizations provided a strong foundation for approaching program implementation from the lens of CYD. Selected institutions demonstrated experience with and commitment to employing and supervising high school age youth as part of their original application process. In the midst of the pandemic pivot, EdVestors and partner institutions were able to quickly make high leverage adjustments (e.g. redesigning internship schedule for a virtual format) and provide coordinated supports due to a shared commitment to CYD strategies and decision-making approach in support of students. EdVestors also was able to leverage its role and knowledge as a citywide intermediary organization for arts education to provide operational and strategic support to worksites throughout the planning and implementation of the internship.
  • Structuring the program to have a wide array of adults involved in the program implementation enabled the interns to develop meaningful adult relationships and mentor-like support systems.
    By the spring of 2020 it became clear to the EdVestors staff that the BAI program would be entirely remote. With this in mind, the staff made a deliberate decision to develop additional mentor-like support from caring adults for the participating interns, given the inherent challenges associated with the interns having to work remotely. This goal was critical in the success of the summer, as the interns had an array of adults with whom they could connect and learn together.
  • Using arts as a theme encouraged and promoted interns to “share their best selves”, find commonalities with one another and with their worksite supervisors, and provided a platform for self-expression and youth voice.
    The Boston BAI program builds on the best practice principles and characteristics of CYD, which see young people as active agents of their own change, with strengths and skills to be developed and supported. Program components explicitly created an experience that supported self-expression and youth voice. Self-expression was important because it enabled interns to stay more engaged in the day to day programming, which was especially relevant following a virtual academic year. It was also important because their identity exploration and articulation allowed them to build more relationships, set future goals and create personalized plans to achieve them through various program elements.
  • An arts-based internship program can provide opportunities for participating interns to develop skills that are transferable and relevant across industries sectors.
    While this lesson is relevant during an in-person program as well, the remote internship experience, in particular, increased student exposure to and facility in using numerous digital tools necessary across organizations regardless of industry sector. BAI students completed the summer with meaningful digital work artifacts that can be shared in a professional portfolio. Beyond technology skills, BAI interns also developed transferable competencies such as adaptability, public speaking, collaboration, self-advocacy, networking, and creating your brand through the lens of theater, visual art, and arts advocacy workshops.

Coming up in the next blog, Developing Wrap-around Supports and Authentic Relationships. 

Learn more about the Bloomberg Arts Internship Boston program on our youth-created website.

Math learning taking a hit during COVID

The February 26, 2021 CommonWealth Magazine op-ed by President and CEO Marinell Rousmaniere, “Math learning taking a hit during COVID”, describes the refocusing needed on math education and measures that must be taken to mitigate learning loss. From the article:

Math education has too long played second – or third – fiddle to other content areas. Literacy understandably has been a focus, but even when it comes to STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) education, the “M” for math is often an afterthought. As with other areas, COVID has exacerbated the issues we already faced in math education, including the fact that only one-third of Boston Public School eighth graders reached proficiency in math pre-pandemic.  It’s time to train a renewed focus on math education and what it takes to ensure students have the numeracy skills they need to be successful in college, career, and life.

Read the full article here and learn more about Zeroing in on Math here.

Boston Public Schools Arts Educators Creatively Meet the Moment

By Anthony Beatrice and Ruth Mercado-Zizzo

This article is featured on Americans for the Arts’ ArtsBlog as part of National Arts in Education Week

Within a week of Boston Public Schools closing its schools due to COVID-19, the district’s nearly 300 BPS visual and performing arts educators quickly shifted to offering remote learning in the arts. The creativity, responsiveness, and community approach educators brought to this task have ensured the arts remain a priority for our students during the spring and moving forward into the new school year.

Within days of school closures, BPS visual and performing arts educators congregated on our first Zoom meeting to take stock of the moment and build a plan going forward. In a traffic-jammed city where it can take over an hour to get from one neighborhood to another, meeting online quickly turned into a silver lining, creating a new outlet for collaboration and camaraderie. Discussions rapidly led to an action plan focused on pedagogy and approaches that would make arts learning relevant and sharing resources to do so.

The Zoom gatherings became a weekly ritual and generated online professional learning communities on Google Classroom to provide a space for educators to share student work, gain feedback from each other, and have a clear understanding of what technologies to focus on in both teaching and learning. The BPS Visual and Performing Arts Department partnered with the BPS Office of Instructional Technology to offer webinars focused on tools like FlipGrid and Google Classroom along with Final Cut Pro and Garageband for creating virtual ensembles. All of these resources were then placed on a new remote learning website so educators and arts partners could easily access them.

The Arts Department wanted a unified approach to connecting students and arts educators virtually to make learning visible, and so began the #BPSArtsChallenges. We partnered with the BPS Communications Department to highlight a weekly challenge, including choreographing a dance jam to Wavin’ Flag, creating artwork for the Boston healthcare community, and developing messages of hope to our isolated seniors as part of a collaboration with AgeStrong Boston. Student work from the art challenges was combined with arts instructional videos on a new television show featured on the Boston Neighborhood Network.

At the end of the school year, students and educators transformed our Annual Citywide Arts Festival into an online format. Featuring virtual bands and choirs, dance mashups, visual art, and theatre performances, students were highlighted from all areas of the city.

The combination of weekly virtual meetings and professional learning communities, showcases of student work, and practical professional development helped ensure the relevancy and access to our high-quality standards-based curriculum.

As we move into a new school year that will begin remotely for all students with plans to phase-in hybrid options, we are able to utilize best practices from the spring while digging deeper into connecting our pedagogy to the needs of our students and families. Over the summer our arts educators partnered with the district’s Social Emotional Learning and Wellness Department to design arts lessons themed on community building, self-identity, and social justice connected to the social-emotional learning competencies and the new Massachusetts Core Arts Standards. Our first project will be creating a district-wide virtual mosaic filled with student artwork and QR codes to dance, music, and theatrical performances. We will continue to partner with the community in monthly district-wide arts challenges. Though field trips might be on hold this year, we are collaborating with our cultural partners in Boston to engage our students in virtual concerts and museum tours. We will carry on highlighting student visual and performing arts presentations in unique formats through livestreams and our local public access television network.

This work illustrates the power of engaging in the arts remotely and why we must continue to support arts education as a vehicle to amplify the voice and agency of our students in the years ahead. As we navigate through these trying times, partners and stakeholders of BPS Arts Expansion, led by the BPS Visual and Performing Arts Department and EdVestors, will continue to meet virtually to discuss challenges and share best practices for remote arts learning. The broad network of partners and advocates—including Boston Public Schools and Superintendent Dr. Brenda Cassellius, school leaders and teachers, local and national foundations and arts organizations, higher education institutions, and the Mayor’s Office—are committed to working together to ensure our students have ongoing, regular access to equitable, quality arts education.

 

Anthony Beatrice is the Executive Director for the Arts at Boston Public Schools. Ruth Mercado-Zizzo is the Senior Director of Arts and Equity at EdVestors.