An Open Letter from Nonprofit Executives Serving the Boston Public Schools
September 26, 2019
Dear Superintendent Cassellius,
We are the leaders of six nonprofit organizations serving the Boston Public Schools (BPS). We write to welcome you in this new role and express our excitement and eagerness to collaborate with you. We look forward to working with you and the district to drive measurable change for the students of the Boston Public Schools.
As local nonprofits, we fill critical gaps in our school system by giving professional educators and families what they often need most: additional support. Whether in the classroom, at lunch or recess, or after school, our programs foster important inter- and cross-generational relationships that lift the entire school community. One-on-one and small group mentorship helps students build the academic skills to truly understand core areas of ELA and STEAM. Hunger and homelessness-prevention services eliminate factors that limit learning. Projects like landscaping and mural painting improve not only the physical conditions of the school building, but the attitudes within it.
Our programs build students’ confidence in themselves and each other. They are exposed to new, positive role models: caring adults who have chosen, over the many other things they could be doing, to show up for BPS students. By connecting community members from all walks of life directly to the classroom, we help break down stereotypes and show the value in service to others.
Because we’re community-based organizations, the impact of our programs extends beyond the school walls, too. By stepping into those buildings each week, our volunteers, staff, and program participants meet people they otherwise might not have — teachers, parents, and the future leaders of Boston. They leave as informed citizens of our city with a better understanding of what happens within the Boston Public Schools and surrounding neighborhoods. These individuals gain an invaluable perspective of the diversity of our city and a real understanding of its culture and community.
While BPS high school graduation rates have improved over the past decade, we can be doing more to equip our students with the hard and soft skills that they will need to succeed in today’s world. Far too many students are falling behind or dealing with incredible social challenges. Black and Latinx students are still disproportionately more likely to drop out, and at higher rates from schools within neighborhoods that are predominantly of color. Our organizations exist to address many of these challenges. We can provide the necessary resources for schools to adequately prepare their diverse student populations for their diverse futures. By deepening our partnership with the Boston Public Schools, we can work together to fill unmet needs.
We invite you to talk with our teams any time you see us inside the Boston Public Schools. It’s our hope that we can meet with you to learn about your priorities for working with partners to collaboratively address the needs of our city and our students. Please feel free to contact Erin McGrath at Boston Partners in Education to set up a meeting with our group to talk about helping every BPS student succeed this year and into the future.
By reaching BPS students before they can fall behind, we will prevent another generation of kids – our kids – from slipping through the cracks.
Erin McGrath, Boston Partners in Education
Elissa Spelman, Breakthrough Greater Boston
Vanessa Bishop, Citizens Schools
Jane Hirschi, CitySprouts
Wes Enicks, Generations Incorporated
Jessica Drench, 826 Boston
Boston Partners in Education matches local volunteers with BPS students nominated by their teachers as needing extra support, whether on a specific subject matter or more generally with their personal confidence. Working within the classroom for one hour each week, mentors and mentees build a rapport based on trust, helping the child grow academically, emotionally, and socially.
Breakthrough Greater Boston prepares low-income students for success in college and trains the next generation of urban teachers using a unique Students Teaching Students model. Through six years of intensive, tuition-free, out of school time programming, we change students’ academic trajectories and support them along the path to college. Simultaneously, we are building the next generation of teachers through competitive recruitment of college students, research-based training, and coaching from master teachers.
Citizen Schools utilizes two different models to expand learning for middle school students. With our Catalyst model, we work directly with classroom teachers during the school day to deliver high-quality, project-based STEM learning experiences with the support of expert volunteers. With our ELT model, our Teaching Fellows partner with schools to provide academic support, high school and college pathway programming, as well our signature apprenticeships which brings adult volunteers from a variety of sectors to facilitate real-world learning opportunities for students.
CitySprouts partners with 9 Boston public schools to open the door to hands-on science education through the schoolyard learning garden. Our in-school time and out-of-school time programs reach children from preschool through middle school years to level the learning field for children growing up in economically stressed neighborhoods, for English language learners and for students with differing abilities.
Generations Incorporated delivers high impact literacy programs to young children through Grade 3 by engaging older adults in meaningful service. Through in-school and after school programs, professionally trained literacy coaches serve communities where opportunity gaps exist to ensure all students have the resources to become literacy proficient.
826 Boston is a nonprofit youth writing and publishing organization that empowers traditionally underserved students ages 6-18 to find their voices, tell their stories, and gain communication skills to succeed in school and in life. 826 Boston now operates six full-time Writers’ Rooms within partner Boston public schools to provide individualized writing support and publishing opportunities across subjects, both during and after school.