Building a Culture of Deeper Learning at the Donald McKay K-8 School

November 2019

This case study documents the transformation of the Donald McKay K-8 School in East Boston, winner of EdVestors' 2018 School on the Move Prize, into a school community where students and teachers have the freedom to be creative, to learn by doing, and to experiment with new methods of learning that are relevant to students’ daily lives.

In 2013, the McKay was among the lowest-performing schools in Massachusetts, ranked in the bottom 6 percent of schools statewide. According to staff, the building was characterized by a “closed door” culture: teachers lacked opportunities to learn from their colleagues, and staff collaboration was virtually nonexistent. The McKay’s journey to the school it is today was made possible by a significant shift in adult culture at the school. A learner mindset and a commitment to continuous improvement are expected of every adult—and every child—in the McKay School community.  

This case study describes the three phases of the McKay’s school improvement journey. At each phase, it highlights key practices that facilitated the McKay’s transformation from a place where learning was quiet and highly structured to a place where learning is noisy, active, and engaging. 

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