School Quality

Superintendent Johnson’s Acceleration Agenda is our roadmap for improving school quality. We have already taken many steps to strengthen our schools and offer better options for families. Now we are taking additional steps to ensure every school is one every family would be happy to choose.

Together, we have:

  • Implemented a new teachers’ contract, which includes what we believe is the most powerful and effective performance evaluation system for teachers and school leaders in the nation, as well as increases the number of nurses and social workers in our schools to further support students’ non-academic needs;
  • Shifted to a weighted student funding model to enable a more equitable funding structure;
  • Dramatically improved services for English Language Learners thanks to investments in professional development, certifications, and the dedicated work of our ELL Task Force;
  • Invested in extended days and great teachers in our Turnaround Schools – where academic growth is beating the District average and where 44 percent more families are listing these schools as a top choice;
  • Brought weekly arts and music back to 14,000 students;
  • Launched successful new athletic programs;
  • Offered free breakfast for every student;
  • Doubled summer learning opportunities;
  • Expanded our very best schools and launched Innovation Schools and In-District Charter Schools to dramatically improve academic experiences while ensuring all students receive the appropriate services so we can continue to close achievement gaps; and
  • Reorganized our central office to better respond to what our schools need.

Today our graduation rate is higher than it has ever been and the drop-out rate is at one of its lowest levels in decades. However, our schools are still of varying levels of quality. Our mission is to ensure every school is a place every family would be happy to choose. As we create a more predictable school choice system, we must also improve equity and overall access to quality schools. Here are the changes we are proposing:

  • New investments in schools with higher need:
    • Schools with a very high number of students living in poverty have additional challenges to overcome when compared to other schools. Our FY14 budget proposal will increase the funding weight for students in schools with high concentrations of poverty. Any school with more than 60 percent of its students receiving Free and Reduced Price Lunch would receive additional resources.
    • High Support Schools are schools showing lower growth and overall performance than other BPS schools, but which lack the intervention tools that Turnaround Schools have. These schools will receive targeted support, including prioritized partnerships with community-based organizations for tutoring and out-of-school learning; vacation-week Acceleration Academies for students; dedicated data teams, literacy and math coaches; and performance evaluation and professional development support.
  • Between six and eight additional In-District Charter and Innovation Schools:
    • These tools allow us to quickly improve quality while allowing current students to remain in a school. No matter what school assignment plan is created, there will still be communities that have a lower overall access to quality than others. We will prioritize these communities for the creation of high-quality In-District Charter and Innovation School programs for the 2014-15 school year.
  • Additional flexibilities for Level 3 Schools:
    • Mayor Menino has proposed legislation that would extend Turnaround powers and support grants to Level 3 schools, including the ability to extend the school day and offer more professional development for teachers
  • Additional K-8 schools and guaranteed K through 8th grade pathways
    • K-8 programs remain highly popular with families and we want every family to have a K-8 option in their choice list. Since 2004 we have doubled the number of K-8 schools in BPS. We propose additional K-8 conversions and propose linking elementary schools to middle schools to create a predictable pathway for students. Under this proposal, students could still make other middle school choices if desired.
  • High-quality programs for English Language Learners that are closer to home
    • There are about 17,000 English Language Learners (ELL students) in BPS. Many of these students require academic programs tailored to meet their specific language needs but these programs are not offered in every school. BPS proposes an “ELL Overlay” to ensure these students always have access to an appropriate program as close to home as possible.
    • BPS proposes to add three more dual-language programs (one in each overlay cluster), bringing the District total to seven
  • High-quality programs for students with disabilities that are closer to home
    • One in five BPS students has a disability and requires services and settings that are tailored to meet their specific needs but are not offered in every school. BPS proposes a “SWD overlay” to ensure these students always have access to an appropriate program as close to home as possible.
    • Each overlay cluster will offer at least one inclusive and one substantially-separate option for students with commonly-occurring disabilities and moderate or high levels of need. These disabilities include autism, emotional impairment, mild/moderate intellectual impairment and specific learning disabilities. As always, placement in a school is determined by a student’s IEP team based on individual needs and students with low levels of need (ie, speech services/“resource” students) can have their needs met in any school.
    • We will also increase Inclusive programs throughout our schools. Already, we have expanded our Inclusive Schools Network to 26 schools.
  • Targeted support for teacher and school leader performance evaluations
    • Our Office of Teacher and Leader Effectiveness is supporting data- and observation-driven performance evaluations, which are linked to goal-setting and professional development plans. Our teachers and school leaders are on-track to receive strengthened evaluations this year.

In addition to the steps outlined above, BPS is also committed to finding space to serve downtown families. We are also proposing to convert an Allston-Brighton school to a regional option.

Our mission continues to be to close access and achievement gaps and ensure every school is a place every family would be happy to choose.

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