Guest Column: Linda Nathan on School Autonomy

Linda Nathan

Linda Nathan is a nationally recognized educator working in school reform. She is the founding headmaster of Boston Arts Academy and has worked in BPS for 35 years.

In June Boston University announced that Nathan was joining the School of Education to lead a new initiative on developing educational leadership.

Nathan spent the past year working with BPS to study school autonomy. She reflects on her experiences in the guest column below.

A special job came with a singular special request: Get clarity on the issue of autonomy for Boston Public Schools. This was the essence of my assignment for most of a year for the Boston School Superintendent.

So what did autonomy mean? Why does it often get a “bad rap”? Ideally, autonomy comes with increased accountability and includes latitude for a school to make its own management decisions without the constrictions of central office mandates. In most cases, in Boston, autonomous schools often have more flexibility with union contracts.

Such decisions regard budgeting, staffing,governance, curriculum, assessment, professional development, length of school day and calendar. Autonomy is a way to leverage innovative practices and improve student achievement. Charter (and there are many variations of charters including Horace Mann and in-district charters as well as Commonwealth charters which are not part of the Boston Public Schools), Innovation schools and Pilot schools fall into this category. Read More →

Week Ahead: Scheduled Events in Education

This Friday, July 18, at 6:00 p.m., LearnLaunch hosts “Travel & Education Hackathon” at the Coalition Space, 101 Arch Street in Boston. Teams will work together to build a new product that addresses a travel-related edtech challenge in 24 hours. At the end, each team will pitch its product to a panel of judges, which will include experts in both the travel and education industries. Click here for more information and to RSVP. Read More →

Introducing EdReads

At Learning Lab we understand that it can be a challenge to stay up-to-date with what’s happening around Massachusetts and beyond when it comes to the future of education. And we know the frustration of having a friend or colleague recommend a news report, only to not be able to … Read More →

5 Questions with Blueprint School Fellow Jayde Bennett

Non-profit Blueprint Schools Network was selected last spring to take-over Dever Elementary School in Dorchester, Mass. The reform-driven program is part of a national network that brings techniques from charter schools into traditional schools.

Among the program components: a fellowship program placing young tutors in classrooms to work with students one-on-one and in small groups.

The week, Learning Lab spoke with one of them, Jayde Bennett, who spent the last year tutoring fourth grade math at Elihu Greenwood Leadership Academy. Now finished with the fellowship, Bennett is working as an admissions counselor and basketball coach at Kent School in Kent, Conn.

In this week’s 5 Questions, Bennett spoke with us about working at Elihu Greenwood Leadership Academy, her education, and the first-year teacher that made her feel a part of the team. Read More →

5 Questions with Josh Biber, Executive Director Teach for America in Massachusetts

More than 300 new teachers in Massachusetts public schools in the past four years have been members of Teach for America, the national non-profit that matches teachers with open positions in low-income schools.

An additional 400 alumni of the program continue to teach in Massachusetts, and more than 50 work as principals or school system leaders, according to the organization.

At the helm of Teach for America’s Massachusetts efforts is Josh Biber. With ten years experience in TFA, including establishing the Massachusetts program in 2008, Biber also sits on a number of school advisory boards including Orchard Gardens Pilot School, Kingsley Montessori School, and Salem Academy Charter School.

This week, Biber sat down with Learning Lab to talk about education in Massachusetts’ Gateway Cities and what lessons the state can draw from what’s happening in places like Fall River, New Bedford, and Lawrence– all districts where TFA works. Read More →

Brooke Clenchy Named Senior Associate Commissioner at DESE

Brooke Clenchy was named Friday as Massachusets’ new associate commissioner of education. In this role Clenchy will oversee the state’s K-12 curriculum and instruction.

Outgoing associate commissioner Bob Bickerton retired this year after 26 years at the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

A press release from DESE is after the jump. Read More →