As Director of Planning and Collaboration here in the Executive Office of Education, a significant part of my role is to support the Innovation Schools initiative in collaboration with the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. This is exciting work that allows me to see, firsthand, the enthusiasm and interest that community members and educators working in our mainstream public schools have for this model - a model that allows communities to create custom-made solutions to their particular students’ needs so that all of our students have the chance to succeed at high levels .
One recent school visit brought Secretary Reville and me to the Carlton School in Salem. The Carlton School, a K-5 school, has been approved to convert to an Innovation School this coming September. During our visit, we were able to hear from the myriad stakeholders involved about their experience in developing the Carlton's Innovation School plan, and about the school's ambitious strategies to better meet the needs of its students by creating a school structure that puts individual student academic progress at the center. The Carlton Innovation School will improve student learning using a continuous progress approach, which includes placing students in multi-age classrooms within team levels, as opposed to traditional grade levels. These students will remain in the same classroom with the same teacher for up to two and one-half years, depending on the student’s progress. Students poised to transition to the next team level will be evaluated by teacher three times per school year at trimester intervals before a student is permitted to progress to the next team level. The school will also add an optional forty minutes to the instructional day in the morning, making staff support available for students who arrive early for intervention groups in reading, writing and math. Additionally, kindergarten students may matriculate beginning the trimester following their 5th birthday, rather than just in September. Hearing the school leaders, teachers, parents and other involved in this process talk about the potential this model holds highlighted for the Secretary and me the importance of a collaborative process that brings a school community together to creatively meet student needs unfettered by current constraints.
Pockets of innovation, like the Carlton School, are sprouting up across the state. In addition to the 20 approved Innovation Schools currently in operation, there are now another 29 schools in the planning process seeking approval to open new or conversion Innovation Schools as early as next fall. This is an impressive pace of adoption of a relatively new initiative - barely two years old. We look forward to supporting the work of local communities as they shape their schools to better meet the needs of their students for the 21st century.
Read the latest news coverage of the Innovation School initiative in the Boston Globe here.