Boston Green Academy Stresses Community and Sustainability, Demonstrates Impressive Results
The 2012 MCAS exams show that students statewide scored higher than ever before and made tremendous improvements. Nowhere is this progress more evident than at Boston Green Academy, a new Horace Mann charter school in South Boston.
In September 2011, Boston Green Academy opened its doors for the first time, replacing Odyssey High School, a struggling school in the South Boston Education Complex. At the time of Odyssey’s June 2011 closing, MCAS scores were low, school safety was a growing concern, and the average student was absent 20% of the time. The school was rarely chosen by students and was in danger of falling into Level 4 status with the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, one step away from state take over.
With the support of Mayor Thomas M. Menino and Superintendent Dr. Carol R. Johnson, the Massachusetts Board of Education approved a five-year initial charter for Boston Green Academy, an “in-district” Horace Mann charter school with a curriculum focused on sustainability and modeled after the successful practices of Fenway High School. The school would adopt the space of the former Odyssey High School in the South Boston Educational Complex and enroll 80% of the former Odyssey High School students, effectively ‘restarting’ a struggling school with a strong new program.
Under the direction of new Headmaster Jeff Liberty, and under the guidance of Larry Myatt, founder of the high-performing Fenway High School, Boston Green Academy approached the school’s inaugural year with optimism and a strong focus on building community and raising academic standards among students, staff, and families. The school’s approach worked.
In its first MCAS testing, the percentage of students passing increased significantly in comparison to Odyssey. In its first year, 92.8% of Green Academy students passed English Language Arts (+8%); 73.9% passed Science (+12%); and most dramatically, 83.3% passed Mathematics – a 15 point improvement from just 68% passing the previous year at Odyssey. These gains were demonstrated by all sectors of Boston Green Academy’s diverse student body which is 87% students of color, 83% low-income, 25% students with disabilities, and 13% English Language Learners. And while the school’s academic improvement can be quantified through testing, the school’s cultural shift from Odyssey to Boston Green Academy is one that can be defined only by those who have experienced both institutions.
“I feel like now it’s a charter school,” states BGA junior and former Odyssey student, Daija Webb. “At Odyssey you could just do the work, but I didn’t have to understand it. At BGA I understand it.” Affirms fellow junior, Nadja Galvao, “Here we have more discussions. Now I have teachers that I text and keep up with, they actually care and keep up with me. At BGA, they push you because they know you can do it.” In addition to preparing students for college and the workforce, the staff at Boston Green Academy want their students to make a positive environmental impact both locally and globally.
As a “green” school, the Academy is committed to fostering environmental awareness among all of its students, helping them become actively engaged in the ever-growing global “green” economy, and working to ensure that all students can contribute to the solution of major problems facing our society at all levels.
“We’re provoking students to think about the individual choices that they make that affect their communities,” said Headmaster Jeff Liberty. “We want them to set an example in their families and in their neighborhoods. We want them to ask, what can we do together?” To support this initiative, the school’s Green Team meets weekly to discuss ways in which they can make a difference – and local organizations are also taking notice.
In June 2012, Vertex Pharmaceuticals announced a $1.5M partnership with the Boston Public Schools, which would provide internship opportunities, university scholarships, teacher resident fellowships, and use of state-of-the-art lab space. With its focus on environmentalism and careers in science, Boston Green Academy was a natural fit for the partnership. Also enhancing the student experience are organizations like The Nature Conservancy, Thompson Island Outward Bound, and Facing History and Ourselves– partnerships that open doors to inner-city students and change the way they see the world.
In just one year, Boston Green Academy replaced a struggling school by adopting the majority of its students, implementing a unique “green” curriculum, developing invaluable partnerships, and demonstrating dramatic academic improvements for students from all walks of life and from all corners of our city.
“Our first year brought us together as a community focused on helping struggling kids see the value of education and know that it’s within their reach,” said Headmaster Liberty. “Walk through our halls, speak with our staff and students, look at our MCAS scores – the difference is everywhere. And it’s only been one year.”
All members of the Boston Green Academy community are committed to building an excellent school for students who need it the most. After one year, the changes are significant and the school believes the best is yet to come.