As students, families, and educators face another year filled with uncertainty from the pandemic, the federal government is making a $2.9 billion investment in the recovery and redesign of our schools. Communities want to know how these funds are being spent and educators want to ensure they support sustainable improvement. If spending is aligned with evidence-based strategies to drive equitable access and opportunity for all students, this unprecedented federal investment has the potential to dramatically accelerate learning, catalyze innovation, and support students' holistic growth and development. But how will we know if it makes an impact? To find out we are teaming up with CERES Institute for Children & Youth and Education Resource Strategies to launch the EdImpact Research Consortium.
The education field has paid much attention to the need to diversify the teacher workforce. But what about education leadership? Students seeing themselves represented in their principals and superintendents has a direct impact on their experiences with the school system and their future aspirations. So how are Massachusetts districts doing when it comes to gender and racial equity in education leadership? To answer this question we teamed up with the Women’s Power Gap Initiative of the Eos Foundation for a multi-year research project zeroing in on disparities in K-12 leadership. What resulted was our latest report, The Power Gap in Massachusetts K-12 Education.
Simone Ngongi-Lukula, Andrew Pablo, and Emily 蘇妮 Thoman are our first Future Education Leaders Network (FELN) research fellows! With support from Rennie Center staff, they are conducting research regarding pathways to careers in education. This process involves reviewing relevant literature, identifying factors that draw people of color to work in the education sector (and push them away from that sector), and providing policy recommendations for recruiting, hiring, and retaining BIPOC professionals.
A $1.8 billion dollar influx of federal funding is coming to Massachusetts schools this year. Communities have until October to submit their funding plans to the state. So what should districts do with this once-in-a-lifetime funding opportunity? Our team came up with a list of practices that schools can invest in right now to both address the current needs of students and lay the building blocks for the modern system of education our children need.
The long-standing challenge of accessing mental health care is growing more and more insurmountable. And the pandemic has only made matters worse. The impacts of a year in isolation on children’s mental health has been profound. Mental health providers cannot keep up with the demand for services and supporting young people during this time requires a whole community response. But while schools can, and do, play a significant role addressing this challenge, supporting students’ mental health needs is a significant responsibility that can stress the capacity of schools and educators. That’s why we’ve teamed up with mental health experts to launch Thriving Minds. Through a series of learning opportunities, Thriving Minds provides teachers, school mental health professionals, and school and district leaders with guidance and support to build comprehensive school mental health systems.
We are thrilled to introduce our new Associate, Elizabeth (Ellie) Sanchez! Ellie joined our team this summer, bringing with her a passion for improving public education and years of experience working in schools and advocating for change. Before coming to the Rennie Center, Ellie served as a corps member for City Year Boston, worked as a teaching assistant at a K-8 school in Roxbury, fought to improve civics education through her work at Generation Citizen, and graduated with a degree in Education Policy and Management from the Harvard Graduate School of Education.
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.