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. 

Regardless of how you cast your ballot on Question 2, there is one thing we can all agree on: our state cares about improving education. Although we may disagree about what method of school governance is best to accomplish this, the attention given to this ballot initiative shows us that citizens across Massachusetts consider school improvement a top priority. We need to continue this conversation about school improvement and focus on how we can scale the practices that are working in both charter and traditional public schools across the state.

In 2010, the Jeremiah E. Burke High School in Boston was failing. With over 80 percent of their students eligible for free or reduced lunch, the Burke faced many difficult challenges – a student population dealing with the effects of poverty, community violence, trauma, and homelessness. The Dorchester school had one of the highest dropout rates in Boston, was unable to meet academic goals, and was designated by the state as underperforming. A few years later, it was the first high school in Massachusetts to exit turnaround, coming out with an award for Boston’s most-improved school, EdVestors' Thomas W. Payzant School on the Move Prize.

Schools and districts across Massachusetts are making progress when it comes to advancing SEL. We wanted to give educators and school leaders a chance to share the important work happening in their schools and the impact SEL programs are having on students.

We've already discussed the importance of social-emotional learning (SEL) in schools and its link to improved academic performance and life outcomes. Perhaps you’ve had a chance to read Rennie’s Social-Emotional Learning: Opportunities for Massachusetts, Lessons for the Nation report or our Condition of Education Action Guide, which focuses on SEL. By now, you’ve heard so many within the education community call for a focus on the needs of the whole child. We all know how important SEL is, now it’s time to take action.