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ERIC Number: ED560078
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2014-Jun
Pages: 102
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: N/A
The Path Forward: School Autonomy and Its Implications for the Future of Boston's Public Schools
French, Dan; Miles, Karen Hawley; Nathan, Linda
Boston Foundation
This study explores the question of how Boston Public Schools (BPS) can strengthen and support autonomy and accountability across its portfolio to promote innovation and expand access to equity and high performance. Some of the specific questions guiding this work are: (1) Should all schools within BPS operate within autonomous structures? (2) Is autonomy a necessary, but not sufficient, condition for success? (3) How and under what conditions should autonomy be granted? (4) Should autonomy be withdrawn based on certain conditions? (5) In what areas should autonomy be granted (governance, curriculum/assessment, scheduling calendar, staffing, budget, professional development)? This is a study on the role and impact of autonomy for school leaders and their teams across the system. Many of the highest-performing schools are traditional schools. Many of the highest performing schools are autonomous schools. The goal is to outline a vision for if, how, and when school autonomy can be used as a tool to help eliminate achievement gaps and improve outcomes for all students. The obligation is to ensure that BPS determines and then provides the conditions for success in all schools so that every student in Boston achieves to his or her highest potential. Effective autonomy must also be paired with accountability. BPS then must establish clearly- defined roles and boundaries for schools and central offices alike. From this research BPS will develop recommendations to help create the conditions for success in all of the District's schools to serve all students and families well in the decades to come. Recommendations offered in this report include: (1) Establish the district's vision as a "system of schools" with consistent high expectations, support and accountability for performance; (2) Extend maximum flexibility to all district schools, and encourage any school that is ready and has capacity to pursue adopting an autonomous schools model; (3) Decentralize non-core central services to the maximum extent feasible, and transition to a purchased services model for the remaining non-core central services; (4) Create a cabinet-level Office of Innovation, reporting to the Superintendent, to incubate and oversee development of new school designs and conversions to autonomous school models, and scale currently successful autonomous school designs based on community needs and demands; (5) Cultivate and support leaders and leadership teams to effectively use their flexibilities to make wise resource decisions that enable school and student improvement; (6) Further construct and implement a school accountability model for all district schools that emphasizes effective practice and student success, with clear supports and consequences based on school performance; and (7) Prioritize candidates for the Superintendent position who are committed to sustaining a system of high-performing schools that balances autonomy and accountability, and who bring a track record of uniting people in a culture that values collaboration, leadership and performance. If Boston acts on the recommendations in this report, the belief is that: (1) Schools will be empowered to more strategically organize resources to drive student learning; (2) The system will embody a diversity of programs that reflect the diversity of Boston's communities; (3) The system will be better able to develop, evaluate and scale innovative practices; (4) Teachers will feel more ownership over instruction, be empowered via shared decision-making and grow as leaders in their schools; and (5) Leadership capacity will increase through formal and informal professional development. Appended are: (1) Growth of Autonomous Schools in the Boston Public Schools; (2) Growth of Boston Student Population, 1990-2012; (3) Members of BPS Cross-Functional Working Group; (4) Boston Public Schools and Related Staff Interviewed for the Research; (5) Current Boston Public Schools School-Based Autonomies; (6) Growth in Scores by School Type and Subject; (7) Case Studies of BPS "Top Quadrant Schools"; (8) Case Studies of Peer Districts; (9) Members of the Advisory Group; (10) Student Choice and Assignment by School Type; (11) Flexibilities Available through School Site Council Waivers; (12) BPS Principal Survey Results--Preferred Autonomies; (13) School-by-School Demographic and Incoming Proficiency Data, SY2013-2014; (14) Extended Learning Time Analysis; (15) Time in School for Commonwealth Charters vs. BPS; (16) Teacher Demographics and Compensation Across School Types; (17) School Leader Experience, by School Type; (18) BPS Principal Survey Results--Evaluation of District Services; and (19) BPS Teacher Survey. [This report was written with research and analysis assistance of Jill Conrad, Michelle LaPointe, Anne Marshall, Helena Pylvainen, David Rosenberg, and David Sherer. The document was prepared by Education Resource Strategies and Center for Collaborative Education for The Boston Foundation and Boston Public Schools.]
Boston Foundation. 75 Arlington Street, Boston, MA 02116. Tel: 617-338-2646; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Reports - Research; Numerical/Quantitative Data
Education Level: Elementary Secondary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: Boston Foundation; Boston Public Schools
Identifiers - Location: Massachusetts