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Research & Insights / At the Hernández, Biliteracy is for All

At the Hernández, Biliteracy is for All

This year, EdVestors held an open call for the School on the Move Prize, seeking the stories of Boston Public Schools that are creating and continuously improving learning environments where all students thrive. Eight semifinalists have been selected to advance to the next round, and three finalists will be celebrated at the School on the Move Prize Ceremony on November 8. Regardless of the outcome, each semifinalist has a story that we can learn from.

The walls of the Rafael Hernández Dual Language K-8 School are covered in student writing, scientific charts, and signs in both English and Spanish. In 1971, community activists lobbied for a school designed for Roxbury’s growing number of Puerto Rican families. Today, the Hernández serves 425 students from around the city and across the world. 

Spurred on by new leadership in 2019, the school dove deep into the science of reading and biliteracy, doubling the amount of coaching and support for all teachers. And in spite of a global pandemic, the Hernández’s instructional team persisted, focusing on essential standards and even piloting eighth-grade AP Spanish. In the midst of the fear of learning loss, students’ growth on the MCAS rose by 9 percentage points over pre-pandemic scores.

The Hernández is working to ensure that this incredible academic growth is shared by all students. Students with disabilities have traditionally lacked access to dual-language instruction because of both bias and a lack of bilingual special education teachers. To change this, educators at the Hernández designed and piloted a System of Integrated Bilingual Language and Learning Supports. The school hired learning specialists to provide IEP services in the classroom instead of pulling out students, leading to more instructional time and higher growth scores for students with disabilities. 

To help families recover from the devastation of COVID-19, the Hernández embraced the Community School model, investing in food distribution and student support positions. Family members who had lost jobs entered the classroom as Primeras Maestras (“First Teachers”), receiving training as future dual language educators. With their Spanish-language skill and parenting expertise, Primeras Maestras provide essential classroom support as staffing shortages continue across BPS.

Strong instruction for all learners and a focus on community have made Rafael Hernández K-8 a school on the move.

Learn more about Rafael Hernández K-8 School here.