EPS visit Joseph Lee and Harvard-Kent schools in Boston

Here is our new post, sent from South Station, Boston. This is the seventh post in the series from the team participating in the Data Wise Institute at Harvard.
(Penny, Jess, Erin and Sarah)
South Station is the largest railroad station and intercity bus terminal in Greater Boston and New England's second-largest transportation center.

South Station is the largest railroad station and intercity bus terminal in Greater Boston and New England’s second-largest transportation center.

Today we visited two schools within the Boston School district; first was Joseph Lee K-8 which, located in Roxbury, has a high Haitian community.

The school planner showed our visit

We were met by Sarah, a fellow Data Wise classmate, who took us for a school tour of their facilities.
Of particular note, was Lee’s enrolment of students with Autism within a dedicated stream of classes across K-8. This is markedly different from Victoria’s approach, which attempts wherever possible, to include students with additional needs, (such as Autism) within mainstream classes.

A classroom in the ‘Autism stream’ at Lee K-8

We also noted that the cafeteria was open early. Sarah explained that the school feeds all students for breakfast and lunch, irrespective of their family income. Breakfast is served each morning at 7:15am, with students entering class at 7:25am to begin learning.


The cafeteria had just finished serving breakfast

 We had the opportunity to speak with several Year 4 students about their experiences with the state-wide assessment program, Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System, (MCAS). These students recalled feeling ‘full in the head’, and ‘exhausted, but I got through it.’
The result of the Lee’s first Data Wise Inquiry, was the development of a school-wide mathematical problem solving strategy, to improve students confidence and performance of math problems in the MCAS test, (see ‘RUDWJ’ photo below).

Explanation of the school-wide problem solving strategy at Lee K-8

The teachers involved in the initial Data Wise Inquiry cycles reported that “we spent an hour trying to decide the heart of the instructional problem of practice.” Moreover, they recalled that Steps 1-3 (Organising for Collaborative Work, Building Data Literacy and Creating Data Overviews) took significant time.
Interestingly, Lee operates Science and Technology as two discrete specialist subjects, along with gym (PE) and The Arts. Moreover, teachers within each year level team, have the option of ‘departmentalising’ their instruction; that is one teacher covers English for the cohort, another covers Maths and the last teacher covers Social Studies.

Outside Gym class occurs on this asphalt area.

Lee’s improvement work in the 2014-15 academic year involves making opportunities to make students’ thinking visible. One strategy using electronic polling devices was trialled this year by the Year 5 Social Studies teacher. This system enables the teacher to collect immediate, actionable feedback from students throughout the lesson.


Lee’s beginning work around making visible student thinking & assessment

The second school visit was to Harvard-Kent Elementary (K-5). Here we spoke at length with the school’s Principal Jason Gallagher, who was exceptionally helpful in explaining the state-wide (MCAS) and district-wide assessment systems.
IMG_7221 IMG_3370
Jason spoke of his initial implementation strategy around the Data Wise Inquiry Process, commenting that he decided to work intensively alongside Year 4 and 5 teaching teams, who were chosen because they were strong instructors who wanted to engage in Inquiry and were also involved in the MCAS.
He commented that he decided it was best to work with a few teams during the initial implementation to do the Data Wise process in-depth, rather than have all teams engage with the process in a superficial way. Jason also reflected that the first full cycle was slow, and resulted in cognitive dissonance for some teachers, but that having seen the initial results of this years testing other teams were keen to be involved next year.
Jason employed the same ‘exit ticket’ strategy with Harvard-Kent students, as Mark and Penny do for teachers at the conclusion of staff meetings. This strategy provides the opportunity for students to ‘prove’ they have learned the lesson’s goal by completing and submitting a quick application task to the teacher as their ‘exit ticket’ from class. This enables the teacher to immediately take note of which students have understood and can apply the concept, and which couldn’t and would benefit from additional intervention.
We look forward to sharing with EPS teachers, Harvard-Kent’s assessment schedule, in relation to comparing and contrasting it with our own ‘Data Inventory and Assessment Processes’ publication, which was developed and launched at EPS last year by Dr Kathryn Boudett from Harvard’s Graduate School of Education, and Director of the Data Wise Project.
Did you know? That the Boston Public School District is the oldest in America. It was founded in 1647.


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2 Responses to EPS visit Joseph Lee and Harvard-Kent schools in Boston

  1. mwalker says:

    I’ll be interested to hear your thoughts on what the teachers thought about their classrooms observations before coming to the improvement strategy. It appears this was a content improvement strategy? Also I look forward to seeing their assessment schedules and the purposes of the “tests”. We have had a wet week so you are luck to be enjoying the sun over there.

Interested in your thoughts