Blog

In the first post of our "A Year in the Life" series, we dig into the City of Somerville, its public schools, and the challenges it has faced through the course of the pandemic. While Somerville is unique in many ways, its experiences amid the pandemic reflect those of cities and towns around the Commonwealth. 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.
As students head back to the classroom in the coming weeks, many will be carrying with them social, emotional, physical, and economic scars from the past year. Some students need connections to vital services that provide food and a safe place to sleep. Others need help accessing mental and physical health care. Many need opportunities for enrichment—even if virtual—to nurture their strengths and give them social connections in this isolating time. To fully support students, schools should have an integrated system of support that can evaluate every student’s unique strengths and needs and connect them to the right resources.
The Rennie Center is pleased to announce the addition of two new board members, Dr. Pam Eddinger and Dr. Jessica Boston Davis. Dr. Eddinger has been the president of Bunker Hill Community College (BHCC), the largest of the 15 community colleges in Massachusetts, since 2013. Dr. Davis currently serves as the Director for Equity and Excellence for the Somerville Public Schools and is an adjunct faculty member at Lesley University, where she teaches Culturally Responsive Teaching.
By Susie Smith, Teacher, Spark Academy in Lawrence | In the transition towards active antiracism, schools have repeatedly overlooked one vital point: we are often disenfranchising the students we are trying to serve. In our conversations about antiracism, is it not crucial to hear from the students who have experience in the classrooms? Research is valuable, and teacher input is imperative, but excluding student voice in conversations about the student experience is marginalizing the very voices that need to be at the center of our thinking and planning. Yet across the country and throughout history, students are so rarely welcomed into discussions of reimagining teaching and learning.
With the vast majority of students engaged in either remote or hybrid learning, parents and caregivers are feeling the strain of balancing work responsibilities with their child’s learning at home. For far too many, this challenge is made more daunting by job loss, unstable living situations, and illness. Remote learning is new for almost everyone and, naturally, parents have a lot of questions. Is my child learning? What’s my role? How can I help? It can feel overwhelming. As important as it may seem to worry about every single aspect of your child’s education, focusing on a few key things can help manage your stress and ensure your child has a meaningful learning experience.

Sinead Chalmers’ deep commitment to improving public education brought her to the Rennie Center six years ago, where she has since made her mark on nearly every aspect of the organization’s work. Leading research, writing reports, and heading up on-the-ground projects, Sinead works tirelessly to shed light on inequities and elevate strategies to improve our education system for all students.

This school year has been far from what we once considered normal. COVID-19 has drastically shifted the way students learn and teachers teach. Most students are learning remotely at least part of the time, and when children are in school they are wearing masks and staying distant. It’s a challenging time for students, teachers, and families. But amid all these sudden changes, are there opportunities for long-term changes that would make our schools even better than before the pandemic?  To find the answer, we went to the experts: educators. Last month, we held a virtual forum to hear from those working in and with schools to learn what’s working, what's not working, and what opportunities there are to propel our education system into a future that’s brighter for all students.
With less than a week until the 2020 election, Rennie's Meghan Volcy takes a close look at the history and current state of civics education, examines the importance of giving young people the tools to engage in the democratic process, and reflects on her own journey in civic engagement.
The Rennie Center is thrilled to introduce our three newest team members: Elle Jansen, Meghan Volcy, and Sophie Zamarripa! Read more about the experience they bring to the Rennie Center and the new projects they are working on.
Guest Blog Post by the Brookline Center for Community Mental Health’s BRYT program: In the past couple of months the look and feel of education have drastically shifted for educators, students, and families. These changes have been unexpected and unwanted, and to many they still feel unresolved. Students, educators, and families are finding themselves chronically holding the unknown, while trying to make the future somewhat predictable. The unpredictability of change, the chronic holding of the unknown, and the magnitude of change have increased stress levels for everyone involved in education. We believe that when children are stressed they can't learn.