Research & Insights / Leaders engage teachers in school improvement efforts, starting with a shared student-centric vision

Leaders engage teachers in school improvement efforts, starting with a shared student-centric vision

EdVestors’ School on the Move Prize serves to highlight the strategies of Boston’s most improving schools. Through years of research, EdVestors and the Rennie Center have identified key practices that enable schools to improve and sustain progress. The ten schools in consideration for the 2022 School on the Move Prize exemplify these practices in their pandemic recovery efforts.

Dante Alighieri Montessori School in East Boston is strongly grounded in its identity as Boston’s only public Montessori school. The disruption of the pandemic was paired with a change in leadership in 2020. Interviews with staff, students, and families revealed a shared investment in the school’s social-emotional (SEL) and social justice education and its multi-grade classrooms, but a desire for a more rigorous curriculum, particularly for emerging bilingual students. 

To address the needs identified, Alighieri formed staff-family working groups to create a reopening plan. Teachers adapted rigorous new curriculum to a Montessori context; ESL and Special Education teachers joined grade-level teams; and the school shifted resources to add a Math Specialist. As these changes were adopted, 98% of Alighieri staff rated their school leadership positively (compared to 49% for BPS).

Alighieri also leveraged existing strengths in pandemic recovery. Thanks to multi-grade classes taught by the same teacher for 3 years, most students learned remotely with teachers and classmates they’d built strong in-person relationships with. The school prioritized community building through school-wide connection times and daily “Good News With Principal Jess” videos. To build on Montessori “virtue studies” and overwhelmingly positive data on behavioral assessments, students began a new SEL curriculum in fall 2021. This sense of community is reflected in high attendance rates and strong regard from families.

Five years ago, Mattapan’s Mattahunt Elementary was closed. The school’s leadership was tasked with building a new school with a new vision: the first dual language Haitian Creole program for early elementary students in the nation, Toussaint L’Ouverture Academy. Teachers are creating precedent-setting Haitian Creole curriculum and assessments for both academic content and cultural learning. Families, students, and teachers celebrate Haitian culture together through events like Soup Joumou day and Haitian Heritage Month.

As a school where nearly half of students speak a first language other than English, the Mattahunt is committed to equitable literacy in both Haitian Creole and English. Teachers are learning and applying the science of reading to their collaborative instructional planning. The team uses assessment and observation data to target English language instruction for each student. As a result, 32% of Mattahunt’s English language learners meet the criteria for Former English Learner, significantly more than the district’s 12%.

Learn more about the School on the Move Prize here. Click here for more information on the School on the Move Prize Ceremony on October 26, 2022 at the Westin Copley.

Read the next post “Leaders cultivate a school community that values collaboration and continuous learning for all educators” featuring Blackstone Elementary and Mario Umana Academy here.