In the early days of the pandemic, members of Open Opportunity—Massachusetts started discussing a question: how is it that in a time when all students are learning remotely, their zip codes still determine the quality of education they have access to? Why should learning be confined to the opportunities available in one school building? The group began dreaming up the idea of a Campus Without Walls, where a student in one community could take a class taught by a teacher across the city, or even across the state. In spring 2021, a pilot of Campus Without Walls was launched in Boston Public Schools. To learn more about how CWW has impacted educators, we spoke with two teachers who, despite teaching in different schools in different neighborhoods, teamed up to teacher a Feminist Theory course for 12th graders.
The pandemic has laid bare the challenges with, and our society’s reliance on, early education and care. Attention on this issue is coming from all policy levels, including the recent release of a report by the MA Legislature's special Early Education and Care Economic Review Commission. If we want to address the inequities highlighted and exacerbated by the pandemic, we need to take a close look at our approach to early childhood support. What key investments can be made to support parents in getting back into the workforce? How can we utilize new funds to give all children a strong start? To find the answers to these questions and more, the MA Early Childhood Funder Collaborative has chosen the Rennie Center to create an innovative statewide early childhood landscape map and data overview.
We're teaming up with the CERES Institute for Children & Youth at Boston University Wheelock College and Education Resource Strategies to launch the EdImpact Research Consortium, a new initiative designed to support evidence-based spending, analyze the impact of COVID recovery funds, and provide a platform for the field to learn from one another. Through this partnership, the Consortium will offer a one-stop shop of supports for educators, administrators, policymakers, and community stakeholders.
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.