Thursday, December 20, 2007

Boston schools are invited to become pilot schools

Superintendent Carol R. Johnson has issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) inviting Boston public schools to consider becoming pilot schools. The collective bargaining agreement between the Boston School Committee and the Boston Teachers Union allows for the creation of up to seven new pilot schools. These schools are part of the Boston Public Schools but operate with autonomy from many district and union regulations, similar to charter schools.

The school district and the teachers' union will co-host an information session for principals and teachers, featuring a panel of educators from schools that have become pilots: Friday, January 4, at 4:00 p.m., in the Boston Teachers Union Hall, 180 Mount Vernon St., Dorchester.

Boston is now home to 18 pilot schools, two Horace Mann Charter Schools, and one Commonwealth pilot school. Together, these schools serve more than 7,000 students in pre-kindergarten through grade 12. The schools have autonomy over budget, staffing, governance, curriculum, and the school calendar to meet the needs of students and families.

Speaking of pilot schools, Boston's newest pilot school -- formerly known as the Thomas Gardner Extended Services School in Allston -- got an official name change last night. The School Committee approved the school's request to be named Gardner Pilot Academy. Pictured here are students in Ms. Thomas' fourth grade classroom receiving new books at the Gardner's recent Reading Is Fundamental (RIF) event, featuring community and district leaders serving as guest readers.


Anonymous said...

One such pilot school is the English High School of Boston.

English was the first public high school in America (in 1821) and thus has national significance. It began during the presidency of James Madison when the Town of Boston had a population of a mere 46,000 persons. It was also during an era when working-class people of Boston sought to gain a much greater role in society.

This populist sentiment is exemplified by the Sons of Liberty who organized the Boston Tea Party. It was a group consisting of tradesmen including blacksmiths, carpenters, servants, bakers, laborers and merchants. They included immigrants from Ireland and Scotland, sailors from Portugal, as well as a number of African-American freedmen, the most famous of whom is Crispus Atticus, slain during the Boston massacre.

Their leader, of course, was Samuel Adams, a staunch republican and early Massachusetts governor. Reflecting the spirit of the time, he argued that “...democracy would flourish as long as education was extended to the masses.” (Refer to John C. Miller's biography of Adams, p. 390, as well as Sam Adams' letters to his cousin, John.)

By the 19th century, the Sons of Liberty had evolved into the Massachusetts Charitable Mechanic Association (MCMA). No less than twenty two of the participants in the Tea Party are known to have joined the association, and Paul Revere was its first president.

The association was devoted to the welfare of workers and tradesmen including advocating for greater educational opportunities for young apprentices. One of its first initiatives was to create the first free public library in the commonwealth (for use by apprentices).

The town was already supporting a number of neighborhood-based, public grammar and Latin schools. For a more advanced education, however, wealthier Bostonians would send their children to Harvard or to private academies, or hire private tutors. The town elders, though, thought that better educational opportunities should not be available just to wealthy families.

Samuel A. Wells, a member of the school committee, championed a plan to create a more advanced school to serve this need. Appropriately, Wells was Sam Adam's grandson. Benjamin Russell was elected to chair the subcommittee that created English High School. He was the well-known publisher of the federalist Boston Commercial Gazette. An ex-apprentice, Russell was also the president of the MCMA.

The school committee modeled the new school after the highly-regarded, public high school of Edinburgh, Scotland.

The mechanics had wanted the new high school to include evening classes. Although this didn't occur, the curriculum did include practical classes such as bookkeeping and ship navigation. The MCMA later established their own evening classes for apprentices and a Mechanics Institue for teaching science to the “working classes.”

English's birth was shortly followed by a high school of girls (in 1825).

George B. Emerson was EHS' first head master. Emerson was a major figure in American education. In 1827, he helped the MCMA establish the Mechanics Institute. (The Instute was modeled after the Mechanics Institute of Glasgow, Scotland, as well as the Franklin Institute, in Philadelphia). He also helped bring about Massachusett's first state board of education.

The first superintendent of the board was Horace Mann. Mann was a key advocate for spreading the Boston high school model to many new communities.

Anonymous said...

Actually, Boston Latin School was the first public school in America, founded in 1635, and thus it is actually older than the United States. Its students can enter either in grades 7 or 9. It is in fact a high school because it teaches grades 9-12 and is much older than English High. Why does English High School, then, claim to be the oldest? I'm just curios.

Tom said...

You would think a Latin grad could make the distinction between the oldest public school and the oldest public "high school." Because of the 7th and 8th grade annexes, BLS is not considered a high school. It is Boston Latin School - not Boston Latin High School.