Charting the Course: Four Years of the Thomas W. Payzant School on the Move Prize

Nov 03, 2010
  • Description

Every spring since 2006, EdVestors ( invites Boston Public schools with 4-year rates of improvement on the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) tests that are significantly (50% or more) greater than the district average to apply for a $100,000 School on the Move Prize (SOM). Since the creation of the Prize, the Rennie Center for Education Research & Policy has served as EdVestors' research partner, identifying and documenting lessons from the winning schools. This report draws upon the previous SOM case studies produced by the Rennie Center, along with interviews with school leaders, staff and students. The study identifies common themes across all four winning schools that describe the structures and strategies put in place to better serve students, as well as some of the opportunities and barriers the schools have faced in sustaining their success since winning the award. Finally, the study highlights some key lessons the leaders of these four schools view as critical to implementing the strategies and practices outlined to support students and improve outcomes. Over the past four years, a diverse group of schools have emerged as winners, including two pilot schools -- one a high school and the other an elementary school -- a traditional K-8 school and a small high school occupying one floor of the South Boston Education Complex. These schools also represent the diverse neighborhoods in Boston, including Dorchester, Roxbury, Brighton, and South Boston. Despite differences in structure, governance and grades served, all four winning schools do share some similar characteristics. First, they all experienced significant structural changes in the immediate years prior to winning the SOM Prize that provided an opportunity for reflection and strategic planning. Second, they are all relatively small schools with lower enrollments than most comparable schools with the same grade configurations in the district. Third, they are all led by experienced educators who are strong leaders with deep knowledge of the Boston Public School system. Finally, they all share common practices that have been critical to their success in improving student achievement, including:

  • Shared Leadership -- Shared Learning: Distributed leadership grounded in shared accountability between administrators and teachers toward a goal of instructional excellence and increased student achievement;
  • Data-driven Instruction: Intentional systems to use data to drive decisions about curriculum, instruction and student supports; and
  • Academic Rigor and Student Support: A student-centered approach that balances high academic expectations with integrated academic and developmental supports targeted to student needs.