In fall 2014, EdVestors launched the School Solutions Seed Fund issuing an open call to educators seeking funding to support problem-solving, experimentation, and innovation in schools. The beauty of the Seed Fund is that through this fund, EdVestors and its granting partners hear from the experts we value most – teachers and school leaders. Matched with flexible resources and tactical support from EdVestors, these educators are empowered to put their plans into action, to experiment, and to share their struggles and successes with a community of like-minded educators.
The Seed Fund also provides a window into the common challenges faced by schools that slow their progress. This year two issues stood out: the need to better address social emotional learning and the importance of preparing high school students for post-secondary success.
Social Emotional Learning and Support: The prevalence of childhood trauma is alarming, often cited at affecting more than 50 percent of children, and likely higher in urban areas. Programs that teach social emotional skills and problem-solving to students are showing promising results. Through the Seed Fund this year, EdVestors is supporting approaches aimed at equipping students with skills to make positive choices in the face of challenges, and teachers with skills to understand and holistically support students’ learning and development:
- a Restorative Justice approach at ABCD at Dorchester Academy;
- KIPP Academy Boston’s pilot of the No Nonsense Nurturer model;
- the Social Thinking approach from Massachusetts General Hospital’s Aspire in inclusion classrooms at the Bates Elementary School and the Haley K-8 School; and
- trauma-informed instruction at the Mattahunt Elementary School in partnership with The Home for Little Wanderers.
This issue has become more visible recently thanks to federal and state policies, efforts by organizations like the Rennie Center, CASEL, and Transforming Education, and the hiring of Boston Public Schools’ new Assistant Superintendent of Social Emotional Learning. These efforts will provide on-the-ground evidence of what works and what challenges emerge in implementation.
Preparing Students For Post-Secondary Success: Despite rising high school graduation rates, students are arriving at colleges unprepared for the coursework. National estimates suggest between 28 and 40 percent of college students are required to enroll remedial courses. EdVestors’ Seed Fund is supporting the Margarita Muniz Academy, in partnership with the Boston HERC, in designing supports for Latino students to be successful in their post-secondary pursuits. Creating and strengthening career pathways for students at Madison Park Vocational Technical High School and the English High School will allow students to graduate with industry-certified credentials prepared to enter the workforce or continue their education.
Mayor Marty Walsh, with the Boston Public Schools and the Boston Opportunity Agenda, has a broad high school redesign process underway in Boston. Our hope is that the piloting and testing of models at these schools will inform Boston’s high schools of the future.
Please join us at the School Solutions Seed Fund Showcase on April 11 at District Hall to listen directly to school leaders and teachers about these issues as well other innovative efforts underway in schools in Boston.
Alison Stevens is Senior Director of School-Based Investments at EdVestors, a school improvement nonprofit working to increase the number of schools in Boston delivering dramatically improved educational outcomes for all students. For more info about the School Solutions Seed Fund, contact EdVestors at firstname.lastname@example.org, check the website at www.edvestors.org or follow @EdVestors.