Blog

This year, educators and students are celebrating Teacher Appreciation Day from a distance. In this trying time, we are reminded of the important role educators play in the lives of students, not just as academic guides but as figures of stability and social and emotional support. As students struggle with social isolation, anxiety around the ongoing pandemic, and the challenges of remote learning, educator and student relationships are as important as ever. In honor of Teacher Appreciation Day, we spoke with two educators who are finding ways to support their students’ social and emotional well-being, despite not being together in person.
The Rennie Center will be rolling out a Back-to-School Blueprint, an interactive series of research-based, online modules to help schools get ready to reopen. The Blueprint aims to help schools implement practices that will not only address the pressing issues facing our students right now, but also become building blocks for a more supportive and high-performing system in general.
As our communities adjust to school closings and social isolation, we recognize the struggles our teachers, parents, and colleagues are facing. At the Rennie Center, we are doing our small part to slow the spread of COVID-19 by working remotely and postponing all in-person events. In this time of upheaval, anxiety, and isolation, we hope we can provide some small sense of support by sharing this list of resources for those looking for information.
Teachers use curriculum materials every day and have a deep understanding of curriculum’s ability to support effective instruction. So when the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education was seeking to develop and share information on high-quality curriculum options, they naturally turned to the experts: Massachusetts educators. Through the CURATE project (CUrriculum RAtings by TEachers), the Rennie Center partners with DESE to convene panels of local educators, who review and evaluate curricula.
To get a better idea of the value of the CURATE (CUrriculum RAtings by TEachers) experience for participating teachers—and for teachers and schools across the state—we asked three current CURATE panelists to answer a series of questions about their experience.

On January 23, the Rennie Center released our annual status report to an audience of nearly 300 state leaders, legislators, students, and educators. This year’s Condition of Education in the Commonwealth report examines the need for new ways of measuring student success, with a focus on three key areas: supporting the whole child, serving all students, and building multiple pathways to college and career.

Talk to students participating in Rhode Coders 2.0, an after-school program run out of the Providence Public Library, and you learn quickly that coding is just one of many skills they’re building. As a student reported, “I’ve learned that perseverance is important. If something is wrong with the code you have to test things.” Another added, “Creativity is a big part of the program.” Rhode Coders 2.0, along with a number of other programs from Boston and Providence, has been part of a two-year pilot to issue credentials known as digital badges to students who demonstrate critical competencies such as perseverance, creativity, leadership, and communication.
On Monday, December 9th, more than 100 state and local leaders, community representatives, parents, and students gathered at Hibernian Hall in Roxbury to share their view on the future of education at a forum hosted by the Rennie Center. Through lively small-group conversations, participants discussed how best to support the success of all Massachusetts students. They then had the opportunity to identify what they see as the most critical priorities for improving the education system.
The choice of curriculum plays a critical role in what students learn and how they process information about the world around them, but students often lack input into the curriculum materials that they experience in school. Rarer still are opportunities for students to develop their own curriculum that builds essential knowledge and mindsets among their peers. Yet this is what a group of students has done in partnership with Boston Public Schools over the past two years. Their process and the curriculum that has resulted from it offers a promising example of student voice and leadership in action.
Engaging in hands-on learning, building real-world understanding, and supporting workplace-ready skills are critical for preparing students to succeed in their future careers. And while many educators integrate these approaches every day in their schools and classrooms, there’s no substitute for the real thing: giving students the opportunity to learn while on the job. Our recent forum on the Condition of Education in Western Massachusetts highlighted the incredible work taking place across the region to get students out of the classroom and into the workplace.