The Education impact area works in two primary ways: first, by investing in Structural Reform to increase the number of high quality schools with site-based decision making, including key autonomies; and, by investing in efforts to increase College Completion rates for students from Boston.


Structural Reform

The Education impact area’s Structural Reform strategy works to strengthen the education pipeline by increasing the number of schools with autonomies.  Research and experience with Boston’s Charter public schools, Pilot Schools and turnaround schools suggest that when principals and teachers can redesign their school, they will put students at the center.  We believe this creates the kind of education conditions that promote student success, and when students have access to autonomous schools, they are more likely to be better prepared for success in their post-secondary pursuits.  Our goal is to increase access to autonomous schools, and in doing so, increase the number of schools with the conditions for student success, which will ultimately increase student achievement across the city.  In support of this, the Structural Reform agenda focuses on governance reform.

To do this we have a two-track strategy for K-12:  invest inside the Boston Public Schools (BPS), and outside.  The vast majority of our grant-making resources are invested inside the BPS in three primary categories:

  • Expanding autonomies to schools across the district, and expanding the number of autonomous schools in the district: this may include supporting networks of in-district high performing schools, including Horace Mann Charter Schools;
  • Expanding or importing innovation that reforms and strengthens the school district, including collaboration across schools and school type;
  • Supporting limited programming for students, including support for the Arts Expansion Fund, daily physical activity (via the Foundation’s Health & Wellness impact area), and summer programming.

Outside of the BPS, we invest in:

  • Replicating high performing Charter public schools, especially charter networks;
  • Researching “what works” and tracking progress toward our goal of preparing all students to succeed, including what’s working in high performing schools and networks of schools;
  • Advocating for policy changes that allow successful schools to proliferate, including removing barriers to expanding high performing schools.

In the future, limited investments may be made that pair structure with a focus on the educator workforce across the education pipeline.

Grantee Highlight

UP Education Network (Unlocking Potential) is a nonprofit school management organization whose mission is to rapidly transform chronically underperforming district schools into extraordinary schools that sustain high achievement over time. UP currently operates three schools in Boston and two schools in Lawrence, educating nearly 2,600 students.  In the Fall of 2016, it will launch an UP Academy in Springfield, its first restart school in Western Massachusetts.  UP Education Network's model takes over low-performing district schools and completely redesigns each school's academic programming, operations, and facilities to achieve high results with the same students. UP was named the "2013 U.S. Education Reform Organization of the Year" by NewSchools Venture Fund for their efforts to close the achievement gap and their deep commitment to sharing best educational practices across their network.

College Completion

The second strategy within the Education impact area is College Completion. Now, more than ever, a credential beyond a high school diploma is required for individuals to participate in the career opportunities in our region.  Knowing this, our goal in this work is to increase the post-secondary credentialing rates for students from Boston.  Our primary investments in support of this work include:

  • Success Boston, which focuses on the transition coaching model, an intervention designed to support students as they move from high school through the first two years of their post-secondary program.   In 2014, the Boston Foundation received a Social Innovation Fund grant to expand this coaching, which has been shown to increase student persistence and graduation rates.
  • Systems reform, including investments that focus on strengthening community colleges to increase student success rates and build connections with regional employers.
  • Investments in data infrastructure, research and advocacy on behalf of the public higher education system.

Grantee Highlight

Success Boston, our college completion initiative, was awarded a Social Innovation Fund grant in 2014.  As a result, nine subgrantee organizations were selected to expand Success Boston coaching from 300-1000 students through the Boston Coaching for Completion initiative: Boston Private Industry Council, Bottom Line, College Bound, Freedom House, Hyde Square Task Force, Match Beyond, Sociedad Latina, Steppingstone, and West End House. The nine subgrantee organizations will provide transition coaching through the first two years of college to students who have matriculated from high schools in Greater Boston. Learn more about the Success Boston subgrantee organizations.

Related Information

Success Boston

Boston Opportunity Agenda