Teaching and Learning

Our English language learners, students with disabilities and Black and Latino boys have historically been underserved by Boston schools. Closing achievement gaps and preparing all Boston children for college and career requires that we both innovate and collaborate around effective instructional practices.

Teachers, learning

“Using student-directed dialogue is so important. I tended to focus too much on teacher-directed tasks. [QTEL] helped me to recast my teaching as more student-driven.”
—QTEL Participant Feedback

Aims of Teaching and Learning

  • Identify local schools and classrooms where students in subgroups are thriving
  • Share effective practices so that educators across sectors develop the expertise to engage all students in rigorous learning
  • Leverage national experts to share knowhow with all sectors
  • Develop school-based capacity to sustain instructional changes

Boston Compact in Action
The Compact has a few initiatives focused on specific subgroups of students. Our most robust effort has been to infuse Boston’s classrooms with the high-challenge, high-support learning English language learners (and their peers) require to succeed academically. The Compact has engaged the nationally renowned Quality Teaching for English Learners [QTEL] program to provide a three-year sequence of professional development to educators from district, charter and Catholic schools. QTEL is centered on five key principles:

  • Sustain Academic Rigor
    Teachers learn how to scaffold students’ engagement with standards- based curriculum, differentiating access while holding learning goals constant.
  • Hold High Expectations
    Teachers engage in a “pedagogy of promise,” understanding sociocultural learning theory and how to build on the strengths that all students possess to meet ambitious goals.
  • Engage in Quality Interactions Teachers learn how to structure teacher-to-student and student-to- student interactions that promote language development, problem solving and collaboration.
  • Sustain a Language Focus
    Teachers learn how to integrate subject area content learning and the use of academic language — for all students.
  • Develop Quality Curriculum
    Teachers learn how to combine QTEL interaction structures and apply them to their own lessons.

With over 160 educators from 22 district, charter and Catholic schools participating, the Boston Compact is helping English learners across the City advance academically.

In addition to QTEL, the Boston Compact is committed to better supporting Black and Latino male students. In 2013, the Compact awarded small grants to two schools whose boys of color had strong literacy outcomes. The schools used the funds to share their practices with schools from other sectors. We are now researching the philosophies of a handful of district, charter and Catholic schools that have successfully closed achievement gaps. Some of these schools tailor curricula or programming to specific populations while others offer all students identical instruction. We anticipate that the findings will advance the local conversation about when and how particular approaches are effective.

Strengthening the education students with disabilities receive in all sectors has been a priority of the Compact since its establishment. The district, charters and Catholic schools are all deepening their inclusion practices (in which students with disabilities are taught in the same classrooms with their non-disabled peers). Through joint analysis of data about where students with high levels of need are flourishing, we are poised to learn collectively about what works, to import practices to other schools and to disseminate findings about those strategies and practices that are proven to work in multiple schools.

Achievement gaps are unfortunately not a new phenomenon — we do not expect to close them within a year or two. However, with some Boston schools making extraordinary progress, we believe the Compact can help catalyze the sharing and scaling of the best practices and innovations.