For the past 13 years EdVestors, a school improvement organization in Boston, has awarded its $100,000 Thomas W. Payzant School on the Move Prize to recognize rapidly improving schools that have made exemplary progress in advancing the academic achievement of all students.
Last Thursday morning during the 14th Annual School on the Move Prize Ceremony at the InterContinental Boston the Harvard-Kent School in Charlestown became the latest winner of the School on the Move Prize.
When Boston Mayor Martin Walsh and Boston Public School Superintendent Brenda Cassellius announced the winner, Harvard-Kent Principal Jason Gallagher and Vice Principal Mark Silva immediately jumped up with fists pumping in the air and high-fived before Gallagher made his way to the stage to accept the award.
The Harvard-Kent beat out two other finalists, the Bradley School in East Boston and the Kenny School in Dorchester, and received $100,000. The other two finalists will receive $10,000.
“Exceptional schools like the Harvard-Kent are the soul of our city and I applaud the teachers and staff for their commitment to educating and empowering Boston’s young people,” said Mayor Walsh. “I congratulate all three School on the Move Prize finalists for setting the example that by working together, we can boost outcomes for students and ensure they receive a high-quality and enriching education.”
The 400-student Harvard-Kent Elementary has seen steady improvement over the past few years in both literacy and math while also narrowing achievement gaps. It was also recognized for exceeding performance targets set by the state, one of 14 BPS schools to do so in 2019, and one of four BPS schools to do so for two years in a row. The Harvard-Kent credits its improvement to a commitment to maintaining a culture that is both safe and welcoming for students while also being academically challenging, and a structure that supports the unique needs and learning styles of all learners.
Accepting the award Gallagher said his school focuses first on creating a positive environment for their young learners.
“The most important thing we do every day is offer a safe and welcoming school to our students and families,” explained Gallagher. “We want to make our kids feel like they are in the best school not just in Boston, but in the country. If you are a member of the Harvard-Kent school community, we want you to feel important, loved and valued. And, we want you to become a proficient reader, writer and mathematician.”
After the ceremony Gallagher said the entire Harvard-Kent School community should be applauded.
“We know that our team has been doing good work at the Harvard-Kent for years. Our students, staff and families work very hard and are dedicated to our school,” said Gallagher. “Winning the EdVestors’s School on the Move Prize lets us know that others recognize the work we are doing and the academic data shows that it is having a positive impact on student outcomes. I am incredibly excited for our students, staff and families as well as our community partners who have supported our work. We can’t help our students succeed without the support of our Charlestown community and we are grateful for everything they do for our school. While we still have a lot of work to do, we are thrilled to be named this year’s winner.”
President of the Harvard-Kent Parents Association Becky Adamonis congratulated Principal Gallagher, his staff and teachers and all the wonderful kids and their parents at Harvard-Kent School for this well-deserved honor.
“The Harvard-Kent Parents Association is proud and happy to help support all the hard work and wonderful things going on at Harvard-Kent,” said Adamonis. It is an incredible honor to not only win but to simply be nominated.”
President and CEO of EdVestors Marinell Rousmaniere said all three of this year’s finalist schools are a testament to what is possible when educators focus on the key practices that drive improving schools.
“We commend each of the School on the Move finalists for focusing on deep relationships with and rigorous academics for students to prepare them for promising futures, and for giving other schools a roadmap for continued improvement,” she said.
The Harvard-Kent’s student population is uniquely diverse within Boston Public Schools. The school community is racially diverse, with nearly equal numbers of Latino, Asian, Black and Caucasian young people represented in the student body. Over half of the student body are English Learners, a quarter are students with disabilities, and more than two-thirds are economically disadvantaged.
In addition to embracing this diversity and creating an inclusive atmosphere for all students, the school teams up with community partners aligned with school priorities to deepen student engagement and learning, as well as connection with the surrounding neighborhood. Once the school day is over, after-school math and early literacy programming helps meet children’s individual learning needs, another priority of Gallagher, who notes that, “oftentimes we talk about meeting the needs of groups of students, at the Harvard-Kent we really try to individualize it.”
Further, a “School Climate Team” comprised of teachers, staff, families and the school psychologist supports and maintains their welcoming and caring school community. All of the Harvard-Kent’s efforts have paid dividends, with their children’s ELA test scores rising steadily before eventually passing the district averages.
“The entire BPS community is proud of the Harvard-Kent for this well-deserved recognition,” said Superintendent Cassellius. “All three of the finalist schools work hard every day to create positive learning environments that include in- and out-of-school supports for students and families, along with the belief that every student can achieve success.”