Introducing the Massachusetts Teaching & Learning Network (MassTLN)

Over the years, the Rennie Center has grown to become an action-based think tank, expanding our reach to apply what we learn from our research to programs that work directly with schools. A central focus of that work has become helping districts build their capacity to design, implement, and continuously assess the use of evidence-based reforms, all with the goal improving education for all students. 

Our path to this model began in 2012 when we teamed up with educators, researchers, and community leaders to start the Massachusetts Education Partnership (MEP), an initiative focused on driving district and school improvement through shared leadership and collaboration. By working with a network of union leaders, district administrators, and school committees, we not only learned about how labor-management collaboration can lead to positive school reform, we also learned how to form a network that can help scale improvements.

In 2014, we broadened our focus again by co-founding the Massachusetts Institute for College and Career Readiness (MICCR). This initiative pairs researchers from across the country with Massachusetts school districts to design, implement, and evaluate college and career readiness programs. Our role is to provide guidance during this process and build the capacity of teams to develop data-driven programs. Our work with MICCR not only helped to inform our thinking on post-secondary readiness, it has also taught us about project management and methods to effectively track outcomes through data.

Now, it’s our pleasure to announce our latest initiative, the Massachusetts Teaching & Learning Network (MassTLN). This project harnesses much of what we’ve learned from our work on MEP and MICCR about network development, collaboration, outcome tracking, and project management to bring together a group of implementation networks aimed at improving educator effectiveness. This project will take a bottom-up approach to change by empowering teachers to test practices they think will work for their students. Our goal is to help educators scale effective practices by creating learning communities.

MassTLN brings together three existing networks—the Five District Partnership, the Massachusetts Consortium for Innovative Education Assessment, and Mass Insight Education—to reach approximately 3,200 educators in 126 schools and 14 districts across the state.

Grounded in the philosophy and practices of improvement science, the goal of this initiative is to provide educators the opportunity to test changes in practice systematically and rapidly, assess the effectiveness of those changes through data, and share results widely with a network of educators.

The Rennie Center will act as a hub, guiding these implementation networks as they build learning communities that are based around a problem of practice with well-defined interventions and projected outcomes. We believe that combining these elements with a trusting, committed team and effective operations will lead to systematic and continuous change. Our role will focus on providing guidance as each network builds its own learning community to address a defined challenge.

This network is working with five neighboring cities—Chelsea, Everett, Malden, Revere, and Winthrop—to align curriculum and rigor in an effort to ease city-to-city transitions for a highly mobile population. Participants are focused on supporting teachers as they develop common assessments in English language arts and math to measure progress and identify areas where support is needed. This effort is meant to improve instruction and raise academic achievement across the five districts.

In an effort to improve college and career readiness in Revere, Attleboro, Winchester, Lowell, and Somerville, this network is focusing on creating a cross-district, locally created, curriculum-embedded performance assessment system to build the capacity of teacher leaders as well as drive instructional improvement and student learning.

Mass Insight Education is the convener of the Gateway to College Success Network, which is working with school districts in five Gateway Cities—Fitchburg, Holyoke, New Bedford, Springfield, and Worcester—to close the gap in college preparation by aligning teacher and classroom instruction both within each grade and across grade levels, while also focusing on removing systemic barriers to time and flexibility.

The MassTLN learning community will also include EMPOWER SCHOOLS, which partners with teachers, schools, civic leaders and state education agencies to create networks of highly autonomous schools where well-supported teachers and principals design and continuously improve school programs to meet their students' needs. 

While building on our previous work, this project also introduces us to new areas of focus, ones that will help to shape our other initiatives and our research going forward. We look forward to sharing what we learn with you.