Below is the text from the Executive Summary from this report. The complete report can be downloaded from the bottom of this page.
Sustaining the Vision:
Place-based Education at an Urban K-8 School
An Evaluation of Project CO-SEED
Young Achievers Science and
Mathematics Pilot School
in partnership with the
Antioch New England Institute
& the Place-based Education
Evaluation Collaborative (PEEC)
& Program Evaluation and Educational Research
(PEER) Associates, Inc.
April 16, 2007
Project CO-SEED’s primary purpose is to help schools and communities work together to simultaneously strengthen academic achievement, community vitality, and environmental quality. CO-SEED* is a project of Antioch New England Institute of Antioch University New England in Keene, NH, and has been implemented at twelve sites since 1998. The project works with a given site for three or more years, providing a range of services, including: funding for a half time staff person from a local community organization; funding for mini-grants; facilitation of a community visioning event; facilitation of a steering committee; and professional development for school staff.
The subject of this report is CO-SEED’s work at the Young Achievers Science and Mathematics Pilot School in the city of Jamaica Plain, MA, in the West Zone of the Boston Public Schools district. CO-SEED’s official tenure there lasted from September of 2003 through July of 2006. Each year CO-SEED conducts extensive program evaluations, and all reports are made available on the web at www.peecworks.org/PEEC/PEEC_Reports/. As part of this year’s evaluation, I spoke with Young Achievers staff, parents, and students about their work with CO-SEED over the last three years. The complete list of interview, survey, and document data reviewed for this report is summarized in Table Y11 in the Appendix.
The format for presenting my evaluation findings is a narrative portrait. Portraiture** is a particular type of qualitative research method that intentionally blends the aesthetics of narrative artistry with the rigor of empirical research. It is an attempt to paint a picture with words that captures the essence of the subject, much like a painter tries to do when painting a person. This approach freely admits, even emphasizes, the subjective nature of the relationship between researcher and subject. This allowed me to usefully capitalize on the relationships I have developed during evaluation interviews at Young Achievers over the last three years.
This report on the Young Achievers site will be folded into a larger report that summarizes quantitative and qualitative evaluation findings for four different CO-SEED sites (including Young Achievers), all of which wrapped up their three years with CO-SEED in the 2005-2006 school year.
This is a story about how an external program can be used to further a passionately strong vision of high quality, place-based, social justice-oriented education in an urban setting. The main themes of this narrative portrait of the Young Achievers school are:
· Place-based education practices have brought focus to, and become established norms in, the school culture. Projects such as the Kindergarten Young Naturalists, the Boston Neighborhoods unit in grades two and three, or middle school studies of sustainability and globalization (including developing school wide recycling and gardening programs) are typical of the many projects that use local resources for learning and promote educator engagement and growth.
· The institutionalization of place-based, experiential*** learning curricula has begun to occur and is likely to be a key part of CO-SEED’s legacy.
· Teachers find place-based, experiential projects to be extremely engaging for their students, who then respond by generating high quality work.
· Despite recent, predicted, positive trends in 5th and 8th grade science MCAS**** scores, most typical or standardized assessments of student academic achievement do not appear to be particularly sensitive to measuring the rich place-based learning that students experience.
· The role of “community teachers” embodies both the boldness of the Young Achievers vision and the difficulties (e.g. role clarity) that can naturally occur when experimenting with innovative staffing structures and approaches.
· Recommendations emphasize further institutionalization of what has worked well, and suggestions for transferring lessons to other schools.
· An overall theme that both encompasses and constitutes each of the themes mentioned above is that strong place-based education is almost certain to continue well beyond CO-SEED’s formal tenure.
* The word “CO-SEED” stands for COmmunity-School Environmental EDucation.
** See Lawrence-Lightfoot, S., & Davis, J. H. (1997). The art and science of portraiture. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
*** The education terms “place-based,” “community-based,” and “project-based” are all used somewhat interchangeably at Young Achievers, with a general tendency toward using the term “experiential learning” to broadly describe the range of hands-on, out of classroom projects and activities.
****Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System, the state-wide standardized testing system that is used to measure Adequate Yearly Progress in compliance with the No Child Left Behind Act.