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Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Superintendent's Blog

June 16, 2021

BPS Literacy Plan Update

Tricia Clifford, Ed.D., Assistant Superintendent of Schools


What a year!  So much has happened in each of our four schools in Bedford, and with each new change, or transition, staff/faculty, parents and students have all been flexible and have done their best to focus on teaching and learning.  I’ve written about the Bedford Public Schools Literacy Plan in the past on this blog, and it’s been discussed at school committee meetings, and within each of the faculty meetings at the schools.  The BPS Literacy Plan was a joint effort among educators throughout the district in the spring of 2020.  It was implemented in the fall of 2020, and now at the end of the 2020-2021 school year, I can provide an update on where we are with the five goals, and the action steps outlined under each of the goals.


Just to review, there are five goals within the Literacy Plan.  Also, there is a Literacy Committee, with membership from each of the schools that meets with me every six weeks.  The purpose of this committee and the bi-monthly meetings, is to check in on where we are with the progress of the action steps, and to also listen, support and problem solve as a committee, all things literacy related.  The five goals that make up the Literacy Plan are as follows:


Goal 1:  Vision/Leadership/Communication

Goal 2:  Assessment

Goal 3:  Intervention Process

Goal 4:  Core curriculum and Instruction

Goal 5:  Professional Development/Coaching


As I stated, each of the goals has a number of action steps outlined that address the goal.  Each of the action steps is generally labeled with being addressed/completed during year 1, 2, or 3 of the plan’s lifespan.  Some of the goals are to be implemented during all three years, while many of them are outlined specifically to be completed in year 1 or 2, etc.  As I reviewed my notes before beginning to write this update, I was impressed with how many of the action steps that were outlined for year 1 of the plan were completed, and how many action steps outlined for year 2 were also completed-during a pandemic, during hybrid learning...kudos to the faculty/staff, students, and families!


Goal 1:  Vision/Leadership/Communication.  An important action step under this goal was to make sure that the Literacy Plan was embedded in School Improvement Plans throughout the district.  This yielded action steps being embedded in what each school did this year, which added consistency and importance to the plan.  We also were able to make sure that funding for programs, including Units of Study for Reading and Writing were supported.  That Fundations (phonics instruction) training will take place, and be implemented with fidelity at the elementary level.  Also that, Orton Gillingham, which is a specialized way to teach reading was provided and that special needs teachers were trained in this approach.  We also have leveraged the expertise of our Literacy Specialists by creating schedules at the elementary level that allow them to work as interventionists at all grade levels, focusing on tiered intervention for students in relation to reading and writing needs. We are also participating in a specially designed workshop for teachers on  “Differentiation” at the end of June from Research for Better Teaching.  This training will help teachers plan and implement lessons and classroom structures that address the different learning needs, and instructional practices that students will need returning from a year of learning during the pandemic.  


Goal 2:  Assessment, We’ve implemented the Data Wise process for the second year.  During the first year of implementing the Data Wise process (as I’ve outlined in this blog previously) the curriculum and administrative leadership group learned about how to use data to inform instruction.  This past year, the actual work of implementing assessments in reading, writing, math, and science was utilized in what we call “assessment sweeps”, where students take assessments, and then we have data meetings where we discuss and analyze the data-and then implement interventions to address student needs.  This process happens regularly at least twice a year, and in some cases three times a year.  


Goal 3:  Intervention Processes.  Within this goal we’ve really been able to examine the RtI (Response to Intervention) structure, looking closely at how we use our faculty/staff to meet student needs, whether in small groups, or one on one, or “push in” to classrooms.  We also made changes to our middle school ELA program, specifically in sixth grade, going from one ELA class for students, to a reading class and a writing class, doubling instructional time at that level on reading and writing.  We also were able to begin to take assessment data and work on ways we can help teachers understand where their students are based on assessment reports.  Also, we are examining ways to share this information with families at parent/teacher conferences during the 2021-2022 school year.


Goal 4:  Core Curriculum and Instruction.  Within this goal we were able to implement at the elementary level strong fidelity to our reading and writing curriculum.  To also potentially implement more training on our phonics program, “Fundations”.  We also have worked on common assessments for writing at the 6-12 level, and at BHS we started the process for school-wide curriculum development and revision of the curriculum, which will be a three year process.  


Goal 5:  Professional Development/Coaching.  This year while so much was new, we were able to implement a lot of newly acquired instructional strategies, which was amazing.  We were able to continue to provide professional development based on individual teacher needs.  A great deal of time was invested in professional development related to “Data Literacy”, learning how to use data to inform instruction, which will continue.  We also, as I stated previously, will  be participating in a workshop for teachers spanning three days in June on “Differentiation” which will help teachers address the various needs of their students, and help to reinforce the workshop model for reading and writing that we are utilizing in several of the grades throughout the district.


This is just a quick update and review of the impact that the BPS Literacy Plan has had within the district during the past year.  As I stated, we were, surprisingly, able to implement many of the year 1 action steps, and year 2 action steps this past year.  We will continue to meet as a Literacy Committee every other month during the 2021-2022 school year, keeping our eyes on the action steps we’ve implemented, and those that we need to implement in the next few years.  As always, thank you to the Bedford families, students and faculty/staff for their continued support and work.


Sincerely

Tricia Clifford, Ed. D.

Assistant Superintendent


Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Superintendent’s Blog

Bedford Public Schools

Data Wise

As we all know, teachers have always used data.  Whether it’s a test, quiz, writing assessment, project or asking students questions to check for understanding, using data has always been an important part of teaching and learning.  By using various forms of data, teachers can get a better understanding if they need to re-teach a concept, present it in a different way, or if our students can move on to a more complex concept, or new material.  

Within the realm of data and its use in informing instruction, a lot has been researched, and learned over the past few years.  The work by Boudette, City and Murnane in their book, Data Wise:  A Step-by-Step Guide to Using Assessment Results to Improve Teaching and Learning (2013), from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, is in many ways a very clear outline as to how and why schools should use data to inform our instruction.  In September of 2019 here in Bedford, as a K-12 curriculum leadership team (program administrators, program directors, principals, central office administrators, and curriculum coordinators) we began the work of diving into the “Data Wise” process.  

The first part of our process was to look closely at our District-Wide Strategic Objects, which outline several objectives all of which connect closely to the Data Wise work, but the one we focused on most in relation to this work was :

“Collaborative Professional Culture:  Nurture a professional culture that maximizes administrator and teaching learning, innovative and creativity by creating authentic opportunities for collaborative work that is informed by shared goal-setting, and analysis of student work and achievement data.”

The Data Wise process itself presents a clear and carefully tested blueprint for school leaders.  It shows how examining text scores and other classroom data (other classroom data is equally as important as standardized tests, if not more important) can become a catalyst for important schoolwide conversations that will enhance schools’ abilities to capture teachers’ knowledge, foster collaboration, identify obstacles to change, and enhance school culture and climate.

As a K-12 curriculum leadership team, we focused on improving teaching and learning by using data structures to discuss, and create meaningful assessments, to form teams to gather the data, analyze the data and inform our teaching, and continue to do this as an ongoing process.  During our work as a K-12 curriculum leadership team we focused on preparing for this work in September 2019, which included reading the first chapters of Data Wise, and continued in November with learning about how to look at data and inquiring within our schools.  In February we began to dig into ways we could act and create data structures to help inform instruction, and in April we began to set up the structure that we would implement during the 2020-21 school year.  Finishing up the year, having read, discussed and implemented, Data Wise:  A Step-by-Step Guide to Using Assessment Results to Improve Teaching and Learning (2013).

We were fortunate in many ways in regard to timing. As we began this process of learning about systemic ways to use data within the K-12 landscape in Bedford to inform our instruction, we had no idea how important it would be to have these structures in place.  When the pandemic occurred in March of 2020, we pivoted to remote learning, and then in the fall of 2020 began our hybrid and all remote models.  I can’t say how appreciative and impressed I have been with the implementation of the data work during the school year.  It was vital that we have a data system in place during the past year.  

In September and October we were able to take baseline data in literacy and math, to find out where students were within their learning and understanding of grade level standards, K-12.  In the fall after those assessments were completed we met at grade levels throughout the district to analyze the student data and create plans to adjust our curriculum and instruction, and to provide Rti (Response to Intervention) support to students.  During January and February, we as a system, again utilized student assessments to capture students’ understanding and learning during the several months they were in school.  We continued the process of analysis and intervention.  This spring we will do this again, and I believe, will be able to see that with the use of the Data Wise system, we have been able to adjust our teaching to help students make progress that is meaningful and will help them bridge what has been a difficult year, to September 2021.  

Without the ability to utilize a K-12 data system to capture what students know and are able to do, in relation to their learning, it would have been difficult this school year to understand how much learning might have been lost during the pandemic, how we could adjust our teaching to address learning gaps, or loss during the 2020-21 school year, and where we need to focus coming into the fall of 2021.  Again, I want to thank the faculty and staff in Bedford, for their dedication to making this system be meaningful for our students, and also I want to thank the students for persevering and doing their best.  We will continue to utilize the Data Wise system as we move forward in the coming years.  The goal over time is to learn from students how our teaching can be improved to meet their needs, and help them reach their fullest potential.

Tricia Clifford, Ed. D.
Assistant Superintendent



Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Superintendent's Blog 

December 2020

Bedford Public Schools 

Literacy Plan

In January 2020, the Bedford Public Schools began the process of assembling a team of faculty to create a Literacy Plan for the district.  One of the main forces behind creating a plan, was to address the concerns highlighted by our standardized test scores, specifically MCAS results for the past few years.  When we called for faculty members to join a committee to create a plan, we were excited to have over thirty members of our faculty step forward and embark on addressing the issues and concerns related to literacy in our district.  This effort was led by Andrea Salipante, K-5 Literacy Specialist, Jennifer Rabold,6-12 Reading Program Administrator, and me.  We were fortunate to have members from each school.  Through the late winter and early spring, the committee formed sub committees to investigate specific issues and to gather information from faculty and staff throughout the district.  

Based on information gathered by each of the subcommittees, we were able to focus our plan on five specific goals, with action steps to be addressed over the span of the next three years.  Each of the schools has embedded the BPS Literacy Plan into their School Improvement Plans.

The BPS Literacy Plan has been presented to all of the faculty and staff this past fall, at building based meetings, and has been presented to the school committee.  We look to presenting it at various parent groups this spring, and next year, either in person or via zoom.  The following information highlights the vision of the plan, the purpose, the belief and assumptions behind the plan and the five specific goals:

BPS Literacy Plan Vision Statement

Bedford Public Schools is committed to making literacy a priority.  We believe that through quality tiered literacy instruction, our students will be prepared for college and career and life beyond Bedford Public Schools.  We want all of our students to have the skills to become literate citizens and pursue their dreams when they graduate from high school.


The Purpose of the BPS Literacy Plan

  • To inform instructional leaders and teachers about current, researched best practices for reading assessment, instruction, and intervention.

  • To develop a comprehensive, system-wide plan for literacy assessment, instruction, curriculum, and intervention, including a literacy scope and sequence that builds on students’ skills as they develop K-12.

  • To address the unique considerations necessary to bridge the gap between students’ current literacy abilities and grade-level expectations by accelerating learning.

  • To inform the professional development goals and needs of the district in the area of literacy.

  • To inform the development and implementation of curriculum for specific courses, programs, and differentiated plans of instruction and intervention.


The Beliefs and Assumptions that Underlie the Development of the BPS Literacy Plan

  • Students that are significantly behind their peers in grade-level reading achievement need:

    • An intervention plan that will accelerate their literacy growth.

    • Additional support above and beyond reading in language arts and other content areas.

    • Instruction from a licensed reading professional during time specified for reading instruction. 

    • Intervention in addition to other services such as special education or ESL.

  • Students reading at or above grade level will also benefit from explicit reading instruction to encourage ongoing growth and development of critical thinking skills.
  • An instruction and intervention plan should be data driven and based on students’ needs to assure growth in reading development and to support the independent application of strategic reading throughout the school day.

  • Triangulation of multiple data measures which includes norm-referenced, criterion-based, and informal assessments should be used to create or redesign reading intervention plans and for moving students into, between, and out of appropriate interventions.


BPS Literacy Plan Goals

  • Goal 1: Vision/Leadership/Communication

  • District and school-based initiatives and goals will be aligned to the Literacy Plan, including the alignment of K-12 literacy curricula.


  • Goal 2: Assessment

  • Consistent administration of literacy assessments will be conducted at every grade level throughout the year; data will be shared across schools, grade levels, and district; and data will be used to inform instruction and intervention.


  • Goal 3: Intervention Processes

  • Consistency and alignment of literacy interventions K-12, including processes for identifying students, informing stakeholders, and delivering interventions, will be strengthened.


  • Goal 4: Core Curriculum and Instruction

  • Core, Tier I literacy instruction will be strengthened and differentiated so as to reduce the need for literacy interventions.


  • Goal 5: Professional Development/Coaching

  • Appropriate and sufficient professional development and coaching will be provided for all staff who are providing and evaluating literacy instruction.


As you can see from the information presented here, a great deal of time, thought, collaboration and effort went into creating this plan-which will be a road map for the district for the next three years. The global pandemic has impacted education everywhere-we are fortunate in Bedford to have educators who have continued to implement the BPS Literacy Plan, even in the face of altered educational models.  The Literacy Plan Committee (a small group of approximately 2 representatives from each school) meet monthly to discuss the implementation of the plan-to check in on the progress of the goals and the action steps aligned with those goals.  We are making progress, and we will continue to address the action steps in the next few years, and support Literacy throughout the district. Periodically, I, along with the Literacy Plan Committee, will be updating the faculty at each school and the school committee as the action steps are addressed.  If you would like to read the BPS Literacy Plan in its entirety please click on this link:   Bedford Literacy Plan


If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me-best wishes for 20201!


Sincerely,


Tricia Clifford, Ed. D.

Assistant Superintendent

Friday, February 7, 2020

BPS Literacy Planning Committee 2020


BPS Literacy Planning Committee 2020

The Bedford Public Schools is committed to making literacy a priority. With that as our shared commitment, we have created a Literacy Planning Committee that has representation from K-12 faculty from all content areas. The committee will work on creating a literacy plan that represents a continuum of instruction, curriculum, assessment, and intervention services for our students K-12.

Our MCAS scores have demonstrated that we have made some progress, yet we still have room for improvement. Several different cohorts have made gains; however, our students are not performing at the levels we would like them too. At no grade, and in no subject tested, did we have greater than 81% of our students Meeting or Exceeding Expectations in 2019. Some grade levels and subjects, such as Grade 7 ELA (YOG 2024), where only 60% of students are Meeting or Exceeding Expectations, are even more concerning. Furthermore, there are significant gaps in the achievement and growth percentiles between students in several subgroups and all students.

In addition to addressing our assessment data, as the literacy demands of learners continue to increase, it is imperative that we develop assessment and intervention plans (including a scope and sequence of developmental outcomes) that lead all students to acquire the literacy skills necessary for the 21st century. With this in mind, we will develop a literacy plan that will serve a variety of purposes:

     To inform instructional leaders and teachers about current, researched best practices for literacy assessment, instruction, and intervention.
     To develop a comprehensive, system-wide plan for literacy assessment, instruction, curriculum, and intervention, including a literacy scope and sequence that builds on students’ skills as they develop K-12.
     To address the unique considerations necessary to bridge the gap between students’ current literacy abilities and grade-level expectations by accelerating learning.
     To inform the professional development goals and needs of the district in the area of literacy.
     To inform the development and implementation of curriculum for specific courses, programs, and differentiated plans of instruction and intervention.

We have 29 Bedford educators that have joined our Literacy Planning Committee. This skilled group in collaboration with many stakeholders will create a district plan that ensures that ALL students in the Bedford Public receive appropriate literacy instruction to prepare them for college and career and life beyond Bedford Public Schools. The committee will work with subgroups  throughout the district on the following categories:

            ● K-5 Core Literacy Instruction
            ● 6-12 Core Literacy Instruction
            ● Literacy Intervention Program
            ● Literacy Assessments and Use of Data
            ● Literacy Professional Development
            ● Resources, Funding, and Staffing
            ● Literacy Leadership and District Structures Supporting Literacy
            ● Scheduling and Grouping

The committee will be meeting several times throughout the spring. The goal will be to share the Literacy Plan at the end of August, and have this plan become an integral part of the overall district plan and each individual school-based School Improvement Plan. The committee will meet for their first meeting, on Friday, January 31st. This is a very exciting time for teaching and learning in Bedford. The response to creating a Literacy Plan, and implementing it collaboratively as K-12 system, has been enthusiastic and well supported. Look for updates as we begin to finalize a comprehensive plan.

Tricia Clifford, Ed.D
Assistant Superintendent of Schools

Tuesday, April 23, 2019


PORTRAIT OF THE BEDFORD PUBLIC SCHOOLS GRADUATE:
PHASE ONE OF OUR 2020-2025 STRATEGIC PLAN
AN INVITATION

What do we as a school community want all of our students to know, understand and be able to do by the time they graduate from high school?  What should inform this vision of our graduates, and how should teaching and learning be designed to make this happen?

These are important questions that educators ask on a continuing basis.  The answers guide decisions regarding school organization, pedagogy, curricular and extracurricular opportunities, and the allocation of resources.  They go to the heart of what all Bedford Public School children experience on a daily basis in their classrooms and extra-curricular activities in all four schools.

But periodically, we need to ask these questions in a more formal and inclusive manner.  We need to reflect on whether we are acting on the most informed answers to these questions for today’s graduates.  And, we need to consider the needs of children who, having entered kindergarten this year, will graduate in the year 2031.

Since our last strategic planning process concluded in 2012, these decisions have been guided by the following Vision Statement: The Bedford Public Schools develops skillful, reflective, lifelong learners who think critically and creatively and who are informed, responsible, and productive global citizens. The school community provides a safe, respectful, and inclusive environment in which the unique intellectual, social, ethical, and emotional growth of each learner is realized.  Accordingly, we have annually developed a set of strategic initiatives aimed at achieving this vision.

This vision derives from the belief that many of today’s societal challenges exist because schooling for too long was not only inequitable, but was also predominantly a passive process of absorbing information.  Accordingly, and because tomorrow is, in large measure, already here today, the Bedford Public Schools has focused for years on changing teaching and learning into a student-active process of developing complex thinking capabilities, and on closing achievement gaps.  For these reasons, certain student outcomes, for example, the ability to view problems analytically and to solve problems creatively, to comprehend complex texts independently, to communicate effectively, to learn with and from others, to be adept with technology, to be reflective and open minded… presently guide our work and will continue to moving forward.

Yet it is time once again to take a more comprehensive look at what our students will need as they come of age in a world of wondrous opportunities and daunting challenges:

      a technological universe that is expanding exponentially, that holds the promise to solve so many social, economic and environmental problems, of creating new forms of art and music, while also threatening to replace interpersonal communication with digital depersonalization, manual and mental labor with robots and AI, and privacy with an ever growing sharing of our personal information;

     the pressing demands of democratic citizenship enriched by diversity in a demographically changing nation, yet still riven by racial, economic and other disparities;

     a shrinking and increasingly interconnected world capable of creating solutions to environmental crises and world health issues, and able to share advances in biotech, nanotech, DNA editing; yet torn by tribal, religious, development and economic resource divisions, and lacking clear and shared ethical guidelines for scientific advances that will challenge what it means to be human; and

     new ideas as well as continuing debates about teaching and learning and how to best prepare all students for citizenship, college and/or career, and a life of continual learning, meaning and fulfillment.

To develop the Bedford Public Schools’ next five-year strategic plan, we are inviting the community to participate in a comprehensive, deliberative process that will begin by creating a Portrait of the Graduate that will emerge from a collaborative process of research and reflection.   The Portrait will describe the core competencies and literacies that all students should have (knowledge, understandings, skills and dispositions) upon graduation.  Once completed,  the Portrait of the Graduate will guide a backwards planning process to identify the key features of school organization, curriculum, instruction and assessment that will be needed to ensure that all students graduate with these skills, understandings and dispositions.

The Portrait of the Bedford Public Schools Graduate committee will be composed of parents, teachers, administrators, students and community members, and will meet once monthly (full day meetings) between May and November (excluding the summer months as well as October).  A draft of the Portrait competencies will be shared with the broader community for feedback and will then be finalized at the November meeting.  The Strategic Planning committee will then meet between December and April to complete the second phase.

If you are interested in participating on the Portrait of the Bedford Public Schools Graduate committee, please click on the following link and, by May 1, let us know. https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSeONXq9NyWmotX3ScBeg8ETQSaRb63-dhKA7NARcR7zacO5sg/viewform?usp=sf_link

Sincerely,

Jon
Jon Sills, Superintendent
Bedford Public Schools





Monday, January 28, 2019

January Professional Development in Bedford


This year, January's full-day professional development was a building-based combination of theory and practice, with a variety of opportunities all connected to equity and teaching all students. Educators in all four buildings were energized and engaged, and came away with perspectives, skills and knowledge that will benefit all students. Here are a few highlights from each building:

BHS: High School educators focused on equity using an EdCamp format in which teachers, and in this case students as well, run workshop sessions for other teachers. There was a variety of offerings, including "Restorative Justice Circles"; "Unpacking the Themes of Fiddler on the Roof and the Importance of Having Courageous Conversations," co- facilitated by teacher and student; "The Trauma Sensitive Classroom"; "Navigating Bedford Public Schools as a Student in the METCO Program," co-facilitated by Superintendent Sills and two students; "Exploring High School Life through the Lens of Student from a Military family," which included a panel discussion by students.

24 students participated, and the sessions were all very well received by faculty, with many wishing the sessions were longer or there were more of them. It is clearly a model that works well and will be developed further.

JGMS: In the morning Middle School educators participated in Keys to Literacy training focused on comprehension and note-taking using work educators have been doing since the fall.  Faculty members broke into departments in the afternoon to coordinate their implementation in greater detail across grade levels and subject areas. The afternoon sessions were led by teacher-coaches who have participated in additional training in the Keys approach to literacy. Plans are underway to assess the effectiveness of the Keys implementation and refine it moving forward.

Lane School: Lane School faculty began the day with a keynote presentation from Superintendent Jon Sills focused on equity and how it integrates into all our work with students, their families, and the larger Bedford community. Jon talked personally about how he became involved in and committed to this work and integrated questions from the faculty. Faculty moved from that address to discuss what they value as educators, and connected those values as they met in smaller groups to collaborate on addressing difficult conversations with students through various school scenarios faculty had negotiated this year.

Faculty moved from those scenarios to school-wide behavior expectations supported by their work in Responsive Classroom. After lunch they heard from METCO assistant director Kristen Johnson about her experiences as a METCO student, along with reflections on what she has observed in her early months in Bedford. Teachers went on to complete an exercise helping them to identify which students are connected, both to other students and to faculty, and which are not, because we know students must be connected to the community in order to learn and thrive.

Davis School
: Davis School classroom teachers worked in vertical teams (teams with representatives from each of the three grade levels, K-2) to analyze and reflect upon reading data over time for current fourth grade students. Taking this longer view enabled them to move beyond individual students to the reading instructional practices that have been in place now for four years. These practices are connected to the Fountas and Pinnell reading benchmark assessment system now in place through grade 5. Because the data was disaggregated by sub group (such as special education, or traditionally underserved groups), it allowed educators to have deeper conversations about student growth and achievement in reading and how that is connected to instructional practice.

Team leaders will return to the leadership group with their observations and findings, which will help to inform the school improvement plan and professional development for the 2019-2020 school year.

MLS


Friday, January 11, 2019


CONFRONTING RACISM: WHAT BEDFORD’S SCHOOLS DO WELL AND WHERE WE NEED TO GROW
PART I

Being an excellent school district means far more than MCAS scores, caring teachers,  a deep and rich curriculum, extensive extra-curricular opportunities, or competitive college acceptances.  It means as well that we successfully support our students’ socially and emotionally, and that we teach all students to think deeply, analytically and creatively, and that we prepare them to live in a highly diverse society.  It also means that we ensure that all students matter,   feel safe to take intellectual risks and realize their full potentials.  In a society still riven by racism, this means removing the obstacles to achievement and belonging that unexamined practices and unintentional biases impose.

When the Bedford Public Schools volunteered in 1974 to become a METCO district, the community clearly expressed its sense of responsibility to provide equal opportunity to Boston students of color and exposure to diversity for resident white students.  However, it is only in the past seven or eight years that we have made educational equity and closing achievement gaps key systemic priorities within the district.  At the same time, our resident population has grown considerably more diverse so that our student population is over 33% students of color. 

The work that we have been doing to close achievement gaps and to diminish the racial divide have made a real difference in many students’ experiences.  The number of METCO alumni who have worked, or have shown an interest in working, in the schools is just one indicator of this impact. But unfortunately, many of our students still feel that they are viewed as “other” by both peers and adults.  This reality challenges us to dig deeper to change mindsets and develop the skills required to bring about this deeper cultural change.   This two-part message describes the steps we’ve been taking, and where we need to go from here.

Contractually Required Anti-racism Teacher Course
Beginning about 20 years ago, the district began to contractually require all newly hired teachers to take an anti-racism course, and about 10 years ago, the district also conducted an analysis of data that revealed equity gaps in MCAS results, representation in high honors and AP classes and participation in extra-curricular activities other than athletics.  

Prioritizing, Embedding and Taking Action
The high school took steps about 15 years ago to organizationally imbed this work, for example, by:
  • Creating a faculty and student Educational Equity Committee 
  • Holding annual student run assemblies celebrating Black History month, multi-cultural talent shows, and overnight retreats bringing Boston, Base and Bedford students together
  • Holding an all school assembly featuring a local police office and a METCO student following an incident where the officer had physically subdued the student
  • Showing a videotaped METCO alumni panel discussion to faculty
  • Instituting our EXCEL program to academically support students moving into higher level academic classes for the first time, and
  • Creating the inter-district Tenacity Challenge to give African American and Latino/a students an annual opportunity to compete in four areas: historical research, literary analysis, artistic expression and math and science learning. (6 minute video at www.tenacitychallenge.com )
District Prioritizes and Institutionalizes the Work Across All Four Schools
During the past seven years, the whole district has focused on closing the equity gaps that result from structural inequalities and that are perpetuated both by stereotypical thinking and implicit bias.  Achieving equity has been one of our three or four annual strategic district goals, and a district-wide Equity and Diversity Committee comprised of teachers, counselors and administrators has generated:
  • · Full-day professional development workshops in cultural proficiency and difficult conversations about race 
  • K-12 literature audits and lesson planning around new titles by authors who are racially diverse
  • the establishment of our Interracial Parent Advisory Council, and
  • an outreach campaign to teacher training graduate programs to recruit more educators of color.   

 This work has been accompanied by:
  • a host of teacher generated initiatives inside and outside the classroom, for example:


o   an overnight hiking trip for a group of METCO and resident student 5th graders, and an interracial lunch group at JGMS
o   support for student initiatives like the Chain Reaction committee at JGMS, and
o   teacher-led anti-racism workshops during our annual professional development EdCamps
  • the addition of a middle school Tenacity Challenge

o   over 120 faculty, staff, alumni and community members volunteer to support the high school and the middle school Challenges that impact about 250 African-American and Latino/a students annually,
  • our Calculus Projects to prepare African-American and Latino/a students to take calculus,
  • major changes to the middle school social studies curriculum (civics and Facing History and Ourselves Civil Rights) and beginning changes to the high school curriculum,
  •  including the Teaching Tolerance curriculum for morning circle at Davis with accompanying assemblies, and
  •  transparent communication around racist and anti-Semitic incidents.
 Yet So Much Still To Do
Despite this work, equity gaps persist, and many of our students of color still feel that they are the “other” in our schools.  Some of our white students express confusion over hearing some of their African-American students using the “N” word.  Hurtful comments, sometimes offered in jest, tap into a history of such hurts.  Well-intended “colorblind” perspectives held by some teachers prevent them from developing genuine cultural proficiency, or from truly getting to know their individual students of color.  Examples of disproportionate responses persist. 

In the next installment of this series on racism and the public schools, I will share the important understandings and action steps that this latest round of reflection and analysis, precipitated by recent incidents, have yielded.   The next installment: The Way Forward.

 JS