With the “Back to School” season in full swing, we are happy to report that there are now 44 Innovation Schools in operation across the Commonwealth serving over 12,000 students! Innovation Schools can be found in every type of school district in Massachusetts – urban, suburban and rural – and serving students at every grade level. Using the autonomy and flexibilities the Innovation School model allows, stakeholders in these school communities are rising to the challenge of shaping their schools to meet the needs of all their students.
To celebrate these schools and to begin to create a professional learning community for Innovation School educators, the Executive Office of Education launched the Innovation School Network (ISN) in June at the Museum of Science in Boston. Over 100 educators from across the state came together to participate in a day of professional development and networking. Governor Patrick welcomed the group to the day-long event and shared his commitment to continuing to work to close the achievement gap through innovation in education. Educators also had a chance to share their own innovative models in small breakout groups and to network with colleagues from all corners of the state. The day also included a talk by Bina Venkataraman, Director of Global Policy Initiatives at the Broad Institute and Senior Adviser to Eric Lander, on the importance of STEM education and the national dialogue around innovation in education. Throughout the coming school year, the ISN will host a number of school site visits and plan to bring educators from Innovation Schools together again next summer.
Because Innovation Schools provide a flexible model for school redesign, it can sometimes be challenging to describe a typical Innovation School. All Innovation Schools, through a collaborative, local approval process, use autonomy and flexibility from their local school district to better meet the needs of the students at their school. Which autonomies schools use and for what purpose varies greatly. Some use schedule and calendar flexibilities; many have sought professional development, curriculum and staffing autonomies; while yet others have sought autonomies from district policies and budget autonomies. To illustrate how a few newly established schools are using their autonomies and flexibilities here are descriptions of three new Innovation Schools:
- Margarita Muñiz Academy, Boston Public Schools: The Margarita Muñiz Academy is the district’s first two-way, dual language high school. The school, named in honor of Rafael Hernández School Principal Margarita Muñiz, will provide a bilingual college preparatory education to nearly 320 students across grades 9-12. As an Innovation School, Margarita Muñiz Academy will offer an expanded school day and year and include additional learning opportunities such as internships, college courses and an El Sistema Orchestra.
- Fitchburg Arts Academy/McKay Campus
School, Fitchburg Public Schools: To improve student achievement, the McKay
Campus School (Pre-K-4) and the Fitchburg Arts Academy Pilot School (5-8),
located in the Teacher Education Center at Fitchburg State University, have
become an “Innovation Pathways School” serving 675 Fitchburg Public Schools’
students in grades Pre K-8. The school will use all of the Innovation School
autonomies - curriculum, budget, schedule, staffing, professional development,
and district policies – to build a comprehensive program to improve student
performance for all students using a a project-based, arts integrated theme.
- Leominster Center for Excellence (LCE),
Leominster Public Schools: The Leominster Center for Excellence will
provide a true alternative educational program for students ages 14-22. The
LCE, which will provide complete wrap-around academic, extended academic and
therapeutic services for students and young adults in the Leominster area, was
started with the basic idea that some students need a school that addresses all
of their needs in order for them to be successful. The Leominster Center for
Excellence will incorporate services from a wide variety of social service partners,
including health, dental, and job coaching, to enhance the educational
opportunities offered during the operation of LCE.
For a complete listing of all 44 Innovation Schools visit our website.