A Longer School Day with Full Enrichment
Currently, Boston’s school day is one of the shortest in urban America, leaving hundreds of hours of potential learning time untapped. We must use every strategy available to extend learning time in the Boston Public Schools. Along with more time in school, every child in Boston should have access to science, art, music, social studies, and physical education taught by qualified and talented professionals. I have called for a “Quality Baseline” to establish a list of courses to be offered at every school and the amount of instruction time in each course, in order to guarantee that all students have access to full academic enrichment.
As Chair of the City Council’s Education Committee, I held hearings on the Boston Teachers Union contract where families and students called for extending the school day. During BPS budget reviews, I advocated for creative partnerships that could extend learning time at our schools. When the new teachers contract came to the Council without a single additional minute of instruction time, I was the only Councilor who voted against it. As mayor, I will negotiate a contract that extends the school day at every Boston Public School.
Connecting High Schools to Create Hubs of Opportunity
As mayor, I will tap Boston's unique ecosystem of world-class educational, research, and non-profit institutions to create a network of effective high schools, so that every student can graduate ready for college, career, and life. My Hubs of Opportunity proposal calls for each Boston high school to have at least three major partnerships: at least one with a college or university; at least one with a private sector employer (including medical institutions and non-profits); and at least one with a trade union or community-based organization. Each high school would work with its partners to develop a college pathway and a vocational pathway focused on a specific industry or academic field. Partners would agree to offer admission, scholarships, employment and/or job training to those students who graduate and satisfy established criteria. Read more here: http://www.connollyforboston.com/hubs-of-opportunity.
Proposal for a Law Enforcement Career Pathway at Madison Park High
To provide our young people with career opportunities that benefit students and the City of Boston, I have proposed reviving and funding the Boston Police Cadet Program and linking it to a new law enforcement career pathway at Madison Park Technical Vocational High School. This pathway would draw talented young people from every corner of the city so that we are identifying and training future police officers, while at the same time offering our students a path to a good career.
We have to be creative about leveraging many of our city’s tremendous assets to create stronger opportunities for young people. With a pathway to a career in the future, young people will stay in school, benefiting both themselves and the neighborhoods.
The creation of a law enforcement vocational pathway at Madison Park would prepare young people to become effective police officers trained to forge stronger connections between residents and the BPD. BPS has a real opportunity to expand vocational education programs in all high schools, and this proposal is an example of the kind of partnership needed to provide BPS students with opportunities for higher education and good careers after graduation.
Read more about my proposal here.
Finding and Keeping the Best Teachers and Principals
Excellent principals are the key to excellent teaching: a highly effective school leader can transform a struggling school or keep a strong school on track. Talented and qualified teachers need to be recruited, supported, and retained in the Boston Public Schools. In the City Council, I pushed to pass a resolution supporting state legislation that strengthened teacher and principal evaluations. As mayor, I will establish partnerships with local graduate schools to develop a principal pipeline that can prepare and train new innovative school leaders.
Empowering School Leaders and Communities
Highly qualified principals and dedicated teachers are professionals who should be encouraged to innovate and improve their practice. Our new evaluation standards can ensure quality across the board, so as mayor I will use every possible strategy to get more funds and decision-making power directly to our schools. Our Pilot, Turnaround, and Innovation Schools have demonstrated that well-resourced schools that have strong leaders and site-based autonomies provide excellent instruction to our children and are highly sought by families. I will work to create more such schools across our city.
Full Social and Emotional Staffing and Supports
Every child should be able to focus on learning, but that can only happen if schools are ready to help with any struggles a child may face, including trauma or mental health concerns. Counselors and social workers must be available to children whenever they are needed, rather than spreading them across multiple schools. In 2012, I co-chaired a hearing with Councilor Ayanna Pressley that brought together various partners and community leaders to identify best practices and strategies for providing social-emotional learning and services. As mayor, I will ensure that every school has access to these partnerships to provide social-emotional supports to all children.
A Straightforward and Predictable Student Assignment Plan
Most Boston residents know friends and neighbors who left the city when their children reached school age and the Boston Public Schools’ student assignment lottery loomed large. Families from all walks of life leave our schools, and oftentimes our city, by way of METCO, charter, private, and parochial schools, or “For Sale” signs. Providing high quality schools in every neighborhood and a predictable student assignment process will allow families to remain in the city they love and confidently send their children to the Boston Public Schools.
After a series of City Council Education Committee hearings in May 2012 and small-group meetings with hundreds of parents across the city throughout the spring and summer, I joined with a coalition of elected officials in October to put forth the detailed and widely acclaimed Quality Choice Plan to reform the student assignment process. The plan pushed the mayor’s External Advisory Committee to move off of zone-based maps to more creative solutions. However, the city’s final student assignment plan still leaves families unsure of the quality of their options and unable to predict where their children will attend school. As mayor, I will finish the job of reforming student assignment by supporting strategies to increase quality schools citywide and guaranteeing a kindergarten seat close to home and a K-8 pathway for every student.
Supporting All Students
My vision for providing a long-term plan for excellent schools for all students begins with a commitment to sustained financial and academic support for our highest need schools. Maintaining funding at schools that serve large numbers of low-income children will, over time, allow principals and teachers to develop a school culture that addresses the additional challenges their students face each day.
In the fall of 2008, I was the lead sponsor of parental accountability truancy legislation aimed at helping chronically absent students, which is the population of students that is most likely to drop out and ultimately face incarceration, addiction, and limited job opportunities. In May 2011, I sponsored a home rule petition with Councilor Tito Jackson to raise the school dropout age in Boston from 16 to 18 years old. These two pieces of legislation aimed to increase family engagement with high-risk students and let young people know that their city will not give up on them.
Dual-language schools have been proven to have the best results for English Language Learners and to provide native English speakers with the opportunity to learn a second language. In the Quality Choice Plan, I led the call for the creation of nine new dual-language schools across the city, and as mayor, I will direct BPS to rapidly expand dual-language seats into every neighborhood.
The law requires that every child be educated in the least restrictive environment possible, yet 40.6% of BPS students with disabilities are taught in classrooms that keep them separated from their non-disabled peers. This is two and a half times the statewide rate. In the Quality Choice Plan, I called for the creation of eight full-inclusion schools to push the district towards a model that best serves children and I will make sure this happens when I am mayor.
I have stood up for students with disabilities consistently throughout my time on the City Council. In February 2011, I filed a hearing order to explore the impact of weighted student funding on special education services. I also submitted a resolution to the Council in support of Massachusetts House Bill 3809, “An Act Relative to Insurance Coverage for Autism,” with Councilor Chuck Turner. And, in January 2013, I testified at the Boston School Committee in support of expanding fully inclusive schools across the city, including the establishment of a fully inclusive early childhood school and high school in Dorchester.
Fixing School Facilities
Boston's schools need a long-term strategic capital and facilities plan. We must begin to chip away at deferred maintenance costs, address hurdles to accreditation at our high schools, and provide more seats and schools in communities that experience face overcrowded classrooms or are without a local school at all.
As part of a comprehensive capital plan, Boston needs to explore the co-location of schools alongside new business and residential developments. This is already happening in other cities, most recently in New York, where the High School of Art and Design and PS 59 moved into a beautiful, green, new building in Manhattan at no cost to the taxpayers. The developers of a mixed-use tower leased the air rights over the school site and financed the school construction. This type of innovative development would serve many of our neighborhoods well, and would provide an answer to the long-running challenge of establishing more downtown schools.
Finally, Boston should comprehensively review the utilization and value of all city property to determine which parcels could be sold in order to finance the improvement of school facilities.
Read about my Building Blocks proposal for improving facilities. Building Blocks will offer institutions proposing development projects the option to receive fast-track permitting in exchange for funding new school construction or major renovations at Boston Public Schools.
Healthy and Nutritious School Food
Children struggle to concentrate and learn if they are hungry. Families should be able to trust that their child’s school is providing healthy and safe meals. In 2010, I uncovered expired food in BPS cafeterias and inefficient storage and inventory practices. To raise the alarm, I chaired hearings on the district’s management of food services that led to changes in inventory tracking to ensure that expired food is not served to our children and that our tax dollars are not wasted on food that doesn’t get consumed.
Better Educational and Job Opportunities for Kids = Safer Streets
Ensuring that young people in Boston have high-quality programs -- from jobs to academic enrichment -- during afternoon, evening and weekend hours is not only the right thing to do if we want them to succeed in school and in life, it’s also the smart thing to do to build safe and healthy neighborhoods. As part of a comprehensive plan to reduce crime and violence and build safe and healthy neighborhoods, I will work with our schools, employers, clergy, and community-based organizations to make sure that every student has access to high-quality programs during afternoons, evenings, and weekends.
Read more about my ideas to expand youth opportunities.