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Launched in 2009, BPS Arts Expansion, the public-private partnership led by the Boston Public Schools Visual and Performing Arts Department and EdVestors, brings together local foundations, the school district, arts organizations, higher education institutions, and the Mayor's Office to focus on a coherent, sustainable approach to quality arts education for all BPS students. This collaboration of local leaders along with students, families, and school staff, has enabled Boston to emerge as a national leader among urban districts working to expand arts education.The purpose of this study is to examine how access to arts education in BPS influences education outcomes pertaining to student social emotional and academic outcomes as well as parent and teacher perspectives regarding school climate. This research strengthens the case for quality arts education for every student, finding significant evidence increases in arts education lead to improvements on a range of indicators of student and parent school engagement.
Analyses of testing data from fall 2020 indicate the transition to remote learning has resulted in significant learning loss, particularly among low-income and minority students. Using data from the online learning platform Zearn, economists at the Harvard Opportunity Insights project found large losses in math learning for low-income students, whereas students from affluent backgrounds saw gains. This has exacerbated fears that the pandemic is widening the already large achievement gap between students from different income and racial/ethnic groups. The COVID-19 crisis has also had a worrisome impact on students' emotional health — particularly among full-time remote learners, for whom supportive networks of teachers and friends have been disrupted.Findings from the Distance and Disruption study correspond with those of a separate survey of 1,549 Massachusetts parents with school-aged children conducted in October and November 2020. That study found significant gaps by income and racial/ethnic group in access to in-person schooling, and parents of children in remote-learning situations — particularly hybrid in-person/remote arrangements — were more likely to feel their child was falling behind grade level.The Distance and Disruption study further adds to our understanding of the transfer to remote learning by exploring students' perspectives on specific differences in the quality of learning experiences between the in-school and at-home environments. Such differences are a critical link in explaining why remote-learning students are more likely to experience negative outcomes.
New K-12 Parent Poll: Student mental health, academics pose challenge to Massachusetts schools COVID recovery plansMay 22, 2022
This poll surveys Massachusetts parents regarding their views about students' safety and academic preparedness related to COVID-19 and the state's COVID recovery plans. The pandemic brought long lasting academic and mental health concerns, which parents say remain serious challenges today.
Massachusetts parents have high expectations that this school year will help their kids catch up after a year of COVID challenges and interruptions. More than a third (35%) of parents now expect their students will be ahead of grade level by the end of this year. That's actually higher than the 28% who said their children were at that level pre-COVID. But it's not clear that schools have the resources to achieve this expected turnaround, or that parents are even getting the information they need to adequately track their students' progress.Those are the top findings from the fifth and latest wave of a survey of K-12 parents statewide conducted by The MassINC Polling Group and sponsored by the Barr Foundation, in collaboration with the Education Trust Massachusetts. The project has tracked parents' attitudes and opinions about their children's education throughout the pandemic since the end of the 2019-2020 school year.
In fall 2020, the Barr Foundation offered high schools the opportunity to hear firsthand from their stakeholders about the teaching and learning experience within the unprecedented educational environment brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. Ten schools across New England opted to take advantage of this opportunity, partnering with YouthTruth to administer surveys to students (and in some cases, to staff and families), to gather information and insights about how they were faring nearly a semester into the 2020-21 school year.
In 2017, fifty-six percent of the principals hired statewide were new to the job, with high-poverty schools most likely to hire novice principals. During 2018 and 2019, a working group of district and charter school leaders and other education stakeholders from across the state met to explore ways to increase the effectiveness of principals leading Massachusetts schools. The Barr Foundation engaged Attuned Education Partners to facilitate this group and lead implementation of the learning agendas developed by its members. Together, they prioritized key challenges and identified solutions that research suggests are most likely to strengthen principalship and drive better outcomes for students—especially the students of color and English learners that the state is currently serving least well. This report presents their findings and insights—including recommended actions tailored to state policymakers, school system leaders, principal preparation program providers, and funders. It also offers a collection of case studies demonstrating potential solutions in action.
During 2018 and 2019, a working group of district and charter school leaders and other education stakeholders from urban and rural locations across the state met to explore ways to increase the effectiveness of principals leading Massachusetts schools. The Barr Foundation engaged Attuned Education Partners to facilitate this group and lead implementation of the learning agendas developed by its members. Together, they prioritized key challenges and identified solutions that research suggests are most likely to strengthen principalship and drive better outcomes for students—especially the students of color and English learners that the state is currently serving least well. This summary highlights their findings and insights. See the full report for more on the challenges and solutions—plus case studies and recommended action steps for state policymakers, school system leaders, principal preparation program providers, and funders.
Learning with Others: A Study Exploring the Relationship Between Collaboration, Personalization, and EquityOctober 5, 2018
Study OverviewPersonalized learning is often equated with individual learning using technology. Yet for many students, learning on their own may not effectively meet their needs. The aim of this study was to explore racial differences in experiences and benefits associated with collaboration. We collected data from a variety of sources for students, teachers, and classrooms within four racially diverse high schools that emphasized both personalization and collaboration. Our sample included 892 students, 138 teachers, and 30 classrooms. Our qualitative analyses identified emergent themes from focus groups and interviews, and our quantitative analyses examined associations among opportunities for collaboration, classroom experiences, and outcomes, testing whether these associations differed forBlack students versus White students. We found that, for all students, reports of high-quality collaboration were strongly associated with positive classroom experiences and mind-set/ dispositional outcomes such as motivation, engagement, and self-efficacy. Moreover, high-quality collaboration was strongly associated with students' perceptions of personalization—and personalization, in turn, was strongly associated with outcomes. At the same time, focus group discussions revealed that Black students perceived less relevance in collaborative activities, more frequent experiences of exclusion and marginalization, and lower support from teachers during collaborative group work than did non-Black peers. Findings from this study suggest that collaborative experiences could be among the factors that contribute to positive changes in the academic trajectories of Black students, particularly when these opportunities reflect high-quality features. Thus, schools and educators aiming to address equity through personalization should consider increasing opportunities for high-quality collaboration.
In 2007, Boston Public Schools commissioned a report from EY-Parthenon to examine how the district was serving youth who were off-track to graduate from high school. That examination of the dropout pipeline revealed a serious need for improvement and was followed by investments in some crucial areas, and in alternative education in particular, to better serve our youth. Since then, significant efforts have been made by BPS and by the Boston community as a whole to support all of our students not just to graduation, but also to a fruitful life after high school. Thanks to these concerted efforts, the BPS four-year graduation rate has risen from 57.9% in 2007 to 72.7% in 2017. Over the same time frame, the annual dropout rate has fallen from 7.9% to 3.6%. But these improvements are not enough. This second report updates our understanding of how our secondary schools support our youth who are off-track to graduate. The results of this study support what we suspected: (1) some of our own policies are contributing to the inadequate service for our youth and (2) our practices are not yet sufficiently developed to prevent students from falling off-track or to help them recover fully if they do.
This report is an evaluation of the first year of the Ready Educators Quality Improvement Pilot (REQIP), part of Thrive in 5's city-wide Ready Educators strategy. The pilot provided technical assistance and support to early education and care programs in centers and family child care homes that serve children from birth to age five. The REQIP theory of change posits that, to meet the goal of improved child outcomes, programs need to build "sustainable independent capacity to operationalize a continuous quality improvement process (CQI)." As the Pilot was envisioned, CQI involved the development of a Program Improvement Plan (PIP) through an assessment based on child-level and program data and with support from a Quality Improvement Partner (QIP). The PIP would then serve as the basis for technical assistance to meet the goals of the PIP, followed by a re-assessment using program and childlevel data. This CQI process would be sustained over time, in an ongoing continuous loop. In July 2013, after a competitive RFP process and with funding from the Barr Foundation, Thrive in 5 selected Wellesley Centers for Women to serve as the QIP.
Providing guidance for leaders dedicated to cultivating rigorous and regulated early learning environments
In 2010, after a decade focused on its home city of Boston, the Barr Foundation launched a pilot in global grantmaking. Over the next three years, guided by a vision for a vibrant, just, and sustainable world with hopeful futures for children, the foundation engaged with over 20 organizations striving to improve the lives of children and families living in poverty in East Africa, India, and Haiti. This booklet summarizes their approach, grant investments, and learning from this initiative.
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