Monday, January 30, 2017


BPS Bolsters Commitment to Excellence For All,
The Groundbreaking Program that is Expanding Educational Opportunities to Fourth- and Fifth-Grade Students
Boston, MA - Monday, January 30, 2017 - The Boston Public Schools (BPS) is strengthening its commitment to Excellence For All in the 2017-18 school year by increasing its investment to $2 million in this groundbreaking initiative that offers students in the fourth and fifth grade rigorous instruction and enriched learning opportunities.

BPS launched Excellence For All (EFA) at the start of this school year with the aim of expanding opportunities for all students to access the same demanding coursework and quality enrichments provided in Advanced Work Class (AWC), a full-time program with an accelerated academic curriculum that has traditionally been open only to those students who score high enough on a standardized test given in October of third grade.

"The goal of Excellence For All is to close achievement gaps at an early age by ensuring all students in general education and inclusive settings have the same opportunities to challenging and enriched learning," Mayor Martin J. Walsh said. "The schools participating in the Excellence for All initiative have student populations that mirror or exceed the district averages for black, Latino, english learners, and special-needs populations, which were underserved by the AWC program."

BPS last year committed $1.2 million to develop and implement Excellence For All to serve 875 fourth-grade students at the 13 schools where it is being piloted. The district will increase that funding in the Fiscal Year 2018 budget by an additional $715,000 to support the expansion of the program to a new grade of students. Next year, Excellence For All will reach 4th-grade and, for the first time, 5th-grade students in those 13 schools - doubling the number of students served by the program.  

Those 13 schools include ten that never offered AWC (the Mendell, Sumner, Holmes, Philbrick, Grew, Guild, Gardner, Harvard/Kent, Orchard Gardens, and King) and three schools (the Curley, Edison and Bates) that previously had AWC but elected to switch to Excellence for All.

"Excellence For All is ensuring that fourth- and fifth-grade students can successfully engage rigorous curriculum and learn at high levels in inclusive classrooms. It is giving many of our young students a more compelling educational experience that previously they would never have had access to," BPS Superintendent Tommy Chang said. "This will put them on a better pathway to academic success by instilling in them a true belief in their ability to take on challenging work."

Excellence for All schools offers students many of the same quality enrichment opportunities afforded to AWC students. EFA students can begin to learn languages such as Spanish, French, Chinese and Japanese. They will also be exposed to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) instruction through a LEGO Education robotics course that teaches computer coding skills. And they will have the opportunity to attend the Northeastern University Center for STEM Education.

The demographics of students served by EFA match or exceed the district's percentages of key subgroups that are currently underrepresented by Advanced Work classes. For example, black students, who represent 30 percent of the district's fourth graders, made up 33 percent of the students in EFA compared to 11 percent of students in AWC. Meanwhile, students with disabilities, who account for 21 percent of the fourth-grade students in BPS, represented 24 percent of the students in EFA versus 1 percent in AWC.

"EFA is an important step towards equity in our district. It is rooted in the belief that all students have a right to a challenging and enriching educational experience. Within that paradigm, it is our job as educators to provide the conditions in which all populations can thrive," said Regine Philippeaux-Pierre, the BPS project manager of Excellence For All.

Dr. Chang stressed that Excellence For All is also providing valuable coaching models, instructional strategies and professional development to its teachers in order to better support them in offering their students more rigorous instruction and personalized learning in safe-learning environments. For example,

  • 70 teachers at EFA schools have received professional development to teach writing skills specifically to students who are English Learners.
  • 36 Grade 4 and 5 teachers are participating in a year-long institute at Harvard University on "Universal Design for Learning," a new approach for developing rigorous instruction that meets the needs of all learners.
  • 12 teachers are receiving intensive math coaching and training through a partnership with EdVestors, a non-profit school improvement organization.
  • 8 teachers are participating in professional development training in executive functioning designed to teach students organizational and study habits to help them be successful, independent learners.

Katie Grassa, principal of the Curley K-8 School in Jamaica Plain, said that by moving to Excellence For All at the fourth-grade level  - the school still has AWC for existing students in fifth and sixth grades - it has had a positive impact on students' confidence.  

"I have noticed an improvement in students' self esteem and their view of themselves as learners, thanks to Excellence for All," said Grassa. "Students who had not "tested" into AWC are given the same opportunities as those accepted into AWC, and we are now seeing some of those very students reading at the highest levels as their AWC-accepted peers.'"



"The 'Excellence for All' program was the answer to our family's dilemma. Our daughter tested into the Advanced Work Program, but was reluctant to leave the school that she loves and has attended since first grade. With the EFA program, she was able to stay at the Sumner, and still receive the benefit of being exposed to a tailored and challenging curriculum."   - Lisa Conley, mother of Lila Jane Conley, a 4th-grader at the Charles Sumner Elementary School.

"I am really excited that August has the opportunity to study robotics and engineering at this age and that August and the other students seemed so engaged in these new projects. Robotics is one of the few subjects that he's willingly volunteered information about what he learned that day and it's always exciting to talk about what cool new thing they are working on." - Bridget Colvin, mother of August Shenk, a 4th-grader at the Mendell Elementary School.

Excellence For All Cohort 1 Demographics Data
This table illustrates the percentages of students, by DESE-designated subgroups, in Excellence For All, Advanced Work Class and the district as a whole. It is for the 2016-17 school year.

EFA Cohort
AWC Grade 4
BPS Grade 4
Students with Disabilities
English Language Learners

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