Education Secretary shines spotlight on innovations at the Paul Revere School

By Mary Pevear

For the Journal

United States Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Massachusetts Secretary of Education Paul Reville visited the Paul Revere School last week to celebrate the school’s Innovation program and to discuss Massachusetts’ education reform.

The Paul Revere School (which is located at the Beachmont School until the new building on Revere Street is completed next August) is set to become one of the state’s first Innovation Schools. The program, which includes a series of student and teacher reforms, will be implemented this September.

On Tuesday, the School Committee was set to consider the Innovation plan and they were expected to approve it unanimously – though the actual vote came too late for this edition.

Paul Revere School Principal Barbara Kelly explained that the new school will be public but with “the autonomy of a charter school.” This provides administrators with more leverage and decision-making power that will hopefully improve student outcomes, she said. The state-proposed program will be funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (the Stimulus Bill).

“We will have our own autonomy in budgeting, curriculum, and staffing,” Kelly said. “Most schools don’t have that because they are overrun by the School Committee and superintendent.”

These departments will still be in charge, noted Kelly, “but in a different way.”

The Innovation School will have the same number of school days and hours as any state-regulated school, but its schedule will be structured differently. In many cases, the school day will become longer.

Also, taking note of student’s difficulties, teachers will conduct tutoring sessions before and after school.

Superintendent Paul Dakin said one such innovation is called Open Circles, where teachers take the first part of the morning to talk with students about emotional and family issues.

“They will get into a discussion,” he said. “The idea is to get the kids ready for learning and to help them unload what is on their mind when they come to school so that they can be ready for the work day.”

Added Kelly, “We are trying to give help to every child that needs it.”

This will help families, too.

“It’s so vital to have extra time in the mornings and afternoons; not just for the students, but for the parents as well.” Kelly noted.

The school will also have an after-school program.

Teachers will undergo a series of training and development courses to prepare for the changes ahead. Early releases of students on Wednesdays will provide the staff additional time for common planning and development.

Students and teachers will be assessed on a regular basis. “We will really monitor the student and teacher’s growth,” Kelly said.

The Innovation school will rely heavily on community involvement, Kelly explained.

Duncan’s visit marked a new chapter at the Paul Revere School. Despite a busy schedule-having spoken at Lesley College’s Commencement exercises earlier that morning – Duncan joined officials at the school for a roundtable discussion.

Many of the Innovation School programs have been implemented already.

Duncan visited Kristen Hartman’s third-grade classroom, where students demonstrated differentiated learning. Inspired by the Bay State Reading Initiative (BSRI), math teachers at Paul Revere School enhanced their program.

“We’ve taken BSRI and carried it across our curriculum into math,” said Kelly.

Math centers addressed each student’s problem area.

“Some students were using the SmartBoard to do math, others were using tiles and wheels for fractions,” Kelly recalled.

Before leaving, Duncan, a former co-captain of the Harvard University basketball team, presented students with an autographed basketball. “The students are very excited about the gift,” said Kelly.

Before the ball is displayed at the new Paul Revere School, Assistant Principal Carol Longo will take the first shot in front of students and faculty.

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