Blog

As Somerville looks ahead to the fall, district leaders say they don't want to focus on making up for the past year, but instead helping students move forward and advancing toward a more equitable and effective system. The district is offering summer programs to help students build academic skills, explore interests, reconnect with peers, and smooth the transition into the school year. Meanwhile, schools are preparing to support students’ mental health and social-emotional needs this fall.
College and career counselors, teachers, and community partners worked together to help the Somerville High School class of 2021 prepare for their post-graduation plans amid COVID-19. Though communicating virtually, they worked to establish relationships with seniors and provide resources through several forms of outreach including one-on-one conversations, online workshops, forums for families, and creating videos on common topics in postsecondary readiness.
It’s been nearly 25 years since the first MCAS tests were taken. Since then, the test and the state’s accountability system have brought resources to underfunded schools, highlighted inequities in our education system, and pushed Massachusetts to first in the nation in academics. But, with progress stalling, a new understanding of the importance of deeper learning, and decades of data on the unintended consequences the test has had on economically disadvantaged communities and communities of color, it’s time for a change. We need to fundamentally rethink our approach to assessments.
In our latest look into the past year in Somerville Public Schools, we look at how Somerville's many community organizations teamed up with schools to meet the needs of students and families during COVID-19, providing everything from diapers and groceries, to art supplies and out-of-school-time learning opportunities. Coordinating in a time of urgency represented a massive logistical challenge, but organizations stepped up to provide support while city and district officials helped fill in gaps with services and messaging to the community.
In our latest look into the past year in Somerville Public Schools, we explore efforts to to keep the community up-to-date on the virus and its effects on Somerville students. From virtual platforms, to phone calls, emails, and social media, communication came through various channels. The most effective communication took place where community members had existing networks, which they could leverage to address needs exacerbated by the pandemic.
In our latest look into the past year in Somerville Public Schools, we explore the challenges students and educators faced in navigating a virtual classroom. When schools closed last spring, Somerville undertook a massive device rollout to make virtual classes available to all students. This process exposed significant inequities in internet access across the district. Even once students were connected, they found it difficult to connect to classes through multiple learning platforms. Many educators also faced obstacles in acclimating to teaching online. However, there are some lessons districts can build upon and integrate into in-person learning, as technology continues to be a great tool for engaging families.

We are releasing a series of dispatches on the bright spots and challenges of the past year in Somerville Public Schools. We hope this in-depth look at one community can shed light on what students and schools across the state need right now and how communities and policymakers can support them.

Our conversations with students, families, and educators confirmed what research tells us: strong relationships are essential components of learning. However, everyone also agreed that building relationships remotely is incredibly difficult. This post explores teacher-student connections, student-student connections, and teacher-family connections during remote learning.
The Future Education Leaders Network (FELN) aims to transform how young people, particularly people of color, are connected to and move through careers in education. Initiated and led by young leaders at the Rennie Center, it serves as a centralized hub where members can build connections, develop a knowledge base, and create their ideal career path. Earlier this month, FELN Planning Committee members Meghan Volcy of the Rennie Center and Kristal Castro of Boston University had a virtual sit down with members of FELN to discuss the value of this network of peers.
Catherine Rauseo brought her passion for storytelling and graphic design to the Rennie Center five years ago, and has made it her mission to make the Center's work more accessible. Through jargon-free writing, easy-to-digest infographics, and a user-friendly website, Catherine has created an approachable public presence to engage all those interested in improving public education.