BPS MassCore Working Group: Spring 2019

Overall Objective

The MassCore Working Group will work toward understanding the implications of shifting all BPS schools to offer the MassCore program as a standard sequence of courses for students. This could take the form of being an available program of study for all students or even a minimum graduation requirement. The purpose of such a change would be to increase the rigor of high school programming for all students in BPS high schools. The discussion could also lead to the exploration of another standard graduation requirement for all schools above the current baseline. The group will examine the implications of any such changes for unintended consequences, equitable impact for students, and implementation needs. Specifically, the group aims to address the following questions:

  1. What, if any, impediments are there to a district-wide adoption of the MassCore recommended program of study?

  2. To what extent is it possible for BPS to adopt, on a district-wide basis, the MassCore program of study?

  3. What is the appropriate implementation timeline for the adoption – to the greatest extent possible – of MassCore program of study and graduation requirements across BPS?

  4. What are the specific action steps that must precede a recommendation by the superintendent to the Boston School Committee to adopt Mass Core?

Members of the working group will review research and preparation undertaken in recent years and related documents that will clarify the key questions and their implications. The group expects to identify priority areas that warrant attention for possible short, mid, and long term recommendations. Possible priority areas might include:

  • Consideration of common minimum graduation requirements across high schools, whether MassCore or other

  • Timelines for shifting individual school graduation requirements to ensure access to rigor for all students

  • Other steps in policy and practice to ensure that all students are prepared for college, career, and life

Discussion Notes from the 4/30 Shah Family Foundation Event

Key Questions and Insight for the MassCore Working Group’s Consideration

  • How do we balance what should be a school’s autonomy to set graduation standards based on the needs of their student population and the resources that they have available with the need to graduate students who can compete in the broader society for college and career access?

  • How do we incentivize and support school leaders to embrace more rigorous graduation standards when they already feel so much pressure and accountability for raising or maintaining high rates of graduation?

  • What other urban districts outside of Boston have successfully adopted MassCore graduation standards? What can we learn from those districts?

  • What kind of resource allocations will it take in BPS to ensure that every high school can offer all of the courses required for MassCore?

  • Is there a way to extend the high school experience so that students can begin to acquire course credits before 9th grade--something akin to dual enrollment offerings where high school students can get college credits? What about a “13th grade?” Should that be a more common part of the high school experience in order to give all students the time and support that’s required to complete MassCore and become more college/career ready?

  • Can we offer rigorous online course options to students to supplement what can be offered during the regular school day?

  • What does a push for more rigorous graduation requirements mean for our teaching force? What kind of support will teachers need to raise the rigor of the classes that they teach?

  • How do we message these shifts in graduation requirements to parents? They need to understand why the goalposts are moving and what it might mean for their children.

Additional Questions or Ideas?

Dr. Joel Boyd

(484) 515-4043