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Schools in Boston and Somerville receive $10,000 grants to develop 'Innovation School' plans

Posted by Johanna Kaiser  February 6, 2013 01:24 PM

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Three Boston Public Schools have each received $10,000 in grant money to support their efforts to establish themselves as "Innovation Schools" that develop educational innovations and work to close achievement gaps.

The Blackstone Elementary School in the South End, William Monroe Trotter School in Dorchester, and the John F. Kennedy Innovation School, currently called the John F. Kennedy Elementary School in Jamaica Plain, were three of eight schools across the state awarded a total of $80,000 in planning grants as part of the state’s Innovation Schools initiative.

A Somerville school also received funding.

The Innovation Schools, established as part of the state's 2010 law overhauling education, are in-district, charter-like public schools that have greater autonomy and flexibility in the areas of curriculum, staffing, budget, scheduling, professional development and district policies.

The schools use inventive strategies and creative approaches to education while keeping school funding within districts, with the goal of closing achievement gaps, promoting new education strategies and offering greater access to high-quality public schools, according to the state.

The schools, or proposed new schools, that were awarded the planning grants have already had their initial prospectuses approved by local superintendents, school committee members and union leaders.

The grants will now help the schools develop innovation plans that will be presented to local school committees for final approval. Many of these schools could open as early as September 2013, according to the state.

If approved, these schools would join 44 other Innovation Schools currently in operation.

“It is exciting to see a school community, like the Blackstone School, that has made significant academic progress with its students, using the Innovation School model to sustain the gains made by seeking autonomies and flexibilities to continue to meet the needs of its students,” said Education Secretary Matthew Malone, who announced the grant awards Wednesday at the South End school.

Blackstone’s Innovation School prospectus proposes seeking autonomies in the areas of curriculum, instruction and assessment, staffing, professional development and budget to sustain its success in improving student achievement outcomes as a turnaround school, according to the state.

Planning and implementation grants have been funded with the state’s Race to the Top funding and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

"I am extremely proud of the progress we’ve made on the Innovation School initiative as more and more schools step up to provide improved educational opportunities for Massachusetts students," Governor Deval Patrick said in a statement. "This robust and diverse group of schools demonstrates what can be achieved when local school communities are given the flexibility to be creative in their approach to helping all students achieve at high levels."

Patrick recently proposed providing $1.5 million in funding to support the planning and implementation of additional innovation schools across the state.

Patrick's budget plan also called for investing $550 million in education--reaching $1 billion over four years--that would provide universal access to early education; allow additional resources for high-need schools to extend learning time for students; increase funding to K-12 districts; make higher education more affordable for students; and allow our community colleges to expand successful programs that are preparing students to thrive in the workplace.

Kennedy Innovation School in Somerville also received a $10,000 planning grant. The four proposed schools receiving funding are the Fall River Innovation Academy; the Esperanza School of Language and Culture and the Renaissance Community School for the Arts, both in New Bedford; and the Somerville STEAM Academy.

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