College Readiness Update

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Greetings,

As the city mourns the loss of former Mayor Tom Menino, it is worth reflecting on his many vital contributions to the education sector and the lives of Boston youth and families.

Mayor Menino was early to recognize the importance of opportunities beyond school in a young person’s development. He wisely kept schools open beyond the final bell, creating a cost-effective way to help young people learn and grow. This focus also allowed parents and caregivers to work, knowing that their children were in good hands. This strategy became a national movement under the 21st Century Community Learning Centers program.

Under Menino’s leadership, participation in after-school programs doubled. Today, nearly every school boasts such a program. His steadfast support of youth set the stage for innovations at the intersection of education and youth development, inspiring us all to continue to tie these efforts to college results.

On the last day of College Month 2014, we are proud to celebrate the work that we and our partners are doing to expand opportunities for academic discovery, activate key social-emotional skills, and provide engaging learning experiences for all Boston youth. 

A growing body of research supports what practioners already know: individuals need a range of skills, beyond academic achievement, to succeed in college and careers. Our partners are taking the lead on this front, demonstrating that these crucial skills can be taught, learned, measured, and improved. Furthermore, they are showing us that the summer months and after-school hours are prime occasions to ignite social-emotional skills like collaboration and critical thinking.

However, out-of-school programming is not distributed equally, and many children from disadvantaged backgrounds lack meaningful opportunities to acquire the skills they need to thrive in college and beyond.

In the past several months, Boston Beyond and its partners have taken on this challenge. Together, we have:

  • Developed a new taxonomy for teen expanded learning opportunities to codify credit-bearing options that may occur both within and outside of school;
  • Issued a research brief on community-based learning to offer actionable advice on expanding students’ access to “real world” learning experiences; and
  • Identified program elements and practices of skill-building activities to unite schools and community organizations around a common college readiness agenda.

The skills that students develop during summer and after school are the same ones that will help them navigate future pathways to success. I hope you will visit our web site to learn more about how we are connecting school, after school, and summer learning strategies so that all young people leave high school ready for the challenges of college and career

All the best,

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Chris Smith, Executive Director, Boston After School & Beyond

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New taxonomy for teen expanded learning opportunities 

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The Expanded Learning Opportunities for Teens Initiative aims to increase opportunities for teenagers to earn academic credit, particularly outside of the traditional school day and classroom setting, and non-academic credentials based on mastery of content or skills. We recently developed a new framework that identifies several credit-bearing options for students in Boston Public Schools and will help inform best practices for extending the classroom to the community. Our partners are currently testing this framework by implementing various programs and activities that feature hands-on, experiential learning and skill building.

Research brief on community-based learning

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In partnership with the Rennie Center for Education Research & Policy and EdVestors, we have launched efforts to facilitate and foster more strategic connections between community organizations and Boston Public Schools. Together, we have issued a new brief entitled “From Schooling to Learning” that documents lessons learned from expanding students’ access to “real world” learning experiences and seeks to understand how these efforts can be brought to scale through effective policies.

Practices of skill-building activities 

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The Achieve, Connect, Thrive (ACT) Skills Framework displays the skills that evidence suggests students need in order to succeed in school, college, and careers. The framework provides a common vocabulary to bridge education and youth development, as well as school, after school, and summer learning. Recently, we convened a group of pre-college programs at Boston University to shed light on what the 12 ACT skills actually look like in the context of preparing for college. Looking ahead, we intend to compile these materials into a report to serve as a directory of skill-building activities that best prepare youth for college success.

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CALL FOR PROPOSALS:

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The Boston Foundation recently released a RFP for the Boston Coaching for Completion (BosC4C) initiative. BOSC4C, a program of Success Boston, is funded through the federal Social Innovation Fund (SIF). Success Boston is a citywide partnership that seeks to double the college completion rate for students.
BosC4C will build on and expand Success Boston’s efforts to raise post-secondary completion rates of Boston Public Schools (BPS) graduates by scaling up one of Success Boston’s early successes, transition coaching. Applications are due on November 25, 2014. We encourage you to read more about this opportunity here: www.tbf.org/sbrfp.
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NEWS FROM OUR TEAM:

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On 10/24, leaders from the 58 sites of the Summer Learning Community gathered together to discuss findings from this year’s programming and to brainstorm strategies for continuous improvement. Common metrics used by all sites allow programs to benchmark themselves against each other in terms of program quality and student skill growth. Please stay tuned for the roll-out of an online Knowledge Center of reports and best practices of summer learning.

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The Teen Initiative learning community held their 6th meeting of the year on 10/21. In this presentation, representatives from BPS and Hyde Square Task Force spoke about lessons learned from the process of expanding arts education across Boston and increasing the number of out-of-school credit bearing opportunities.

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The Advancing Quality Partnerships learning community met on 10/20 for a panel and interactive discussion on the important topic of family engagement, a key component of school quality on which BPS schools are now evaluated. During this convening, representatives from the BPS Office of Family & Student Engagement and Dance with Books shared their insights on cultivating a culture of engagement.

Please use the hashtag #BostonLearnsTogether to continue the dialogue about these partnerships, and to share feedback or updates about your ongoing projects.

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CORE FUNDERS:

Barr Foundation

The Boston Foundation

City of Boston – Boston Centers for Youth & Families

Eos Foundation

Nellie Mae Education Foundation

United Way of Massachusetts and Merrimack Valley

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