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Research & Insights / School on the Move Prize: What we learned when we changed our eligibility criteria

School on the Move Prize: What we learned when we changed our eligibility criteria

Each spring, EdVestors launches the School on the Move Prize selection process, ready to celebrate powerful work happening in schools across the district. The School on the Move Prize shines a light on schools, leaders, and teachers who create and continuously improve learning environments where all students thrive, demonstrated through significantly improved outcomes for students.

Last year, EdVestors shifted to an open call for applications, inviting all Boston Public Schools to share a snapshot of their stories of improvement, outline relevant data, and describe the strategies that helped them improve student outcomes. The open call in 2022 was an experiment. At a time when MCAS data, our previous criteria for eligibility, needed to be interpreted with an especially high number of caveats and cautions, it was easy to make the case that we should pause any eligibility based on this measure. It was an opportunity to invite more expansive ways to define, measure, and understand school improvement and success. We approached each step of the process with curiosity and a learning orientation. How might this further align the School on the Move Prize to our organizational goals? What were the potential trade-offs or challenges? At the end of the process, we engaged in internal reflection and gathered feedback from school leaders. Below are three key takeaways.

1. We got to hear a lot of stories of improvement that we otherwise would not have heard.

In any year, we hear impressive improvement stories from schools across the district. However, we were inviting a small subset of schools to apply and wondered if the eligibility criteria was unintentionally excluding schools with improvement stories that should be celebrated and elevated. We were pleasantly surprised by the results. For the 2022 Prize, none of the three finalist schools had been eligible for the Prize in the past nine years, and only 10% of the schools that were invited to submit a Round 2 application were ever eligible during that time.

2. Schools are excited to tell their stories.

Whether they advanced as finalists or not, school leaders shared that they appreciated the opportunity to pause, take stock, and capture their progress across an incredibly tumultuous period. They were proud of their staff, students, families, and broader school communities. In a deluge of negative headlines, they passionately shared the ways that they were measuring success in individual classrooms, at specific grade levels, and across their schools. At a time when it feels like stories are often told about them, they were excited to tell their own stories in ways that felt meaningful and authentic to them.

3. There are a range of quantitative and qualitative data sources being used at the school level that tell powerful stories of improvement.

One thing is clear: schools have a lot of data. There is a common set of data that is similar across schools, like attendance or ACCESS reports or MCAS scores. There are also school-specific tools and processes that teams use to better understand the strengths and needs of their students and school communities. In the Round 1 applications, we saw rich sources of evidence that are not visible in typical public reports, such as family engagement focus groups, racial equity audits, and instructional rounds. We continue to use MCAS data as an important data source in the review process, with an emphasis on student growth. However, we believe that there is a much more nuanced story to be told.

Based on our lessons learned from last year’s process, we are continuing with an open call for applications. We made a few adjustments to the application based on feedback from school leaders and hope that this year’s process will continue to invite powerful stories of improvement during a particularly challenging few years. 

Round 1 applications are live and are due Friday, April 28, 2023. We invite you to nominate schools that you would celebrate as Schools on the Move and encourage them to tell their stories of improvement.