At the start of the pandemic, we released our Back-to-School Blueprint, an interactive series of research-based, online action guides on supporting learning during the 2020-21 school year and beyond. As the next phase of this work, we are highlighting “A Year in the Life” of a single Massachusetts school district: Somerville Public Schools. Our aim is to gain a clearer sense of the bright spots and challenges of this school year by digging deep into the experiences of one community, in order to understand what students and schools need right now, how they can most effectively move forward, and how communities and policymakers across the state can support them.
This spring, we’ll be releasing a series of dispatches on “A Year in the Life” of Somerville Public Schools, focusing on essential topics such as remote learning and community-school connections. These dispatches will be grounded in in-depth conversations with a range of stakeholders and community members, including students, families, educators, and district leaders. Over the summer, we will share a comprehensive research and policy review that delves into the strategies discussed in each dispatch, offering research-based recommendations and tools for other districts and schools eager to build on the work we describe.
DISPATCH #1: A Closer Look at Somerville
In many ways, Somerville is unique. New England’s most densely populated community, it features a diverse population of blue-collar families, young professionals, and recently arrived immigrants. Somerville is characterized by a high level of cohesion among leaders from the city and school district and residents' civic pride is evident. But despite Somerville’s distinctive nature, its experiences amid the pandemic reflect those of cities and towns around the Commonwealth. Understanding how these trends have played out in one district will allow us to tell a broader story about education in Massachusetts amid the pandemic: what have been the core challenges? What has gone well, in spite of all the obstacles? For this initial dispatch, we spoke with some of the leaders who have been steering the district for the past year: Mayor Joe Curtatone, School Committee Chair Andre Green, and Superintendent Mary Skipper. Read on for more on their reflections as well as background information on the city of Somerville, its schools, and its students.