Boston After School & Beyond, in partnership with the City of Boston, Boston Public Schools, and the Boston Opportunity Agenda, held a public gathering this week to discuss innovative strategies for connecting the classroom to the community. Over 140 individuals representing 92 organizations were in attendance to help guide the effort to re-imagine high schools of the future. The goal of this event, hosted at the Institute for Contemporary Art/Boston, was to solicit and share ideas on reconfiguring the BPS high school portfolio and redefining the student learning experience. For more information on the high school redesign process, please visit the following website.
BASB convenes the Partnership Council—a growing coalition of 70 organizations committed to expanding learning opportunities for high-need youth in Boston. Comprised of program providers, foundations, businesses, higher education, and city officials, the Partnership Council is charged with supporting citywide strategies from kindergarten through college that help all of Boston’s youth succeed in school and beyond.
The event kicked off with a live audience poll, challenging attendees to identify one word that best encapsulates their vision for high school redesign in Boston. Promoting more experiential student-based learning, facilitating greater connections to career pathways, and ensuring inclusion and equity emerged as key themes throughout the event.
Rahn Dorsey, Boston’s Chief of Education and Co-Chair of the Partnership Council, then walked attendees through an interactive process to identify what every student should be able to do and how future high schools can support these skills. Dorsey challenged the audience to think beyond the four walls of the classroom, noting: “The city is truly our greatest resource. In the future, learning will be done at companies, in museums, and at universities.”
Chad d’Entrement from the Rennie Center for Education Research & Policy followed with concrete recommendations for ensuring that community resources play an integral role in students’ high school experiences. As detailed in the 2014 report “From Schooling to Learning,” community-based learning can help expose students to meaningful content, help them develop life-long skills, and deepen connections between schools and external organizations.
Promoting student skill development remains an important priority among our partners. As evidenced by the poll results below, attendees indicated that they feel best equipped to help students develop relationships/collaboration, followed by critical thinking and perseverance. Supporting students in developing self-regulation and creativity remain areas for which we still have some room for improvement. In the context of high school redesign, stakeholders indicate that data-sharing with schools, increased training around measurement, and a common credential to recognize learning outside of school would help increase the capacity for programs to support these vital skills.
The event concluded with a rich discussion of esteemed panelists. Many thanks to our great speakers:
- Shari Davis, Executive Director, Department of Youth Engagement and Employment
- Julie Joyal, Executive Director, HMS MEDscience
- Makeeba McCreary, Founder & Executive Director, AbekaM
- Ryan Oliver, Site Director, BUILD Greater Boston
Participants left the meeting with a strong sense of purpose and a unified recognition of the importance of robust school-community partnerships. Perhaps Chief of Education Rahn Dorsey summarized it best: “This is work that no one sector can accomplish along. I challenge all of you to throw your hat in the ring and continue to strengthen partnerships, so that every high school student graduates with the skills needed for success.”