The Winter Hill Community Innovation School wins fourth annual Pozen Prize for Innovative Schools

$75,000 prize recognizes academic success and quality of teaching and learning at Somerville school

May 10, 2017

Boston – The 2017 Pozen Prize for Innovative Schools has been awarded to the Winter Hill Community Innovation School, Somerville’s only innovation school. This year marks the fourth annual awarding of the Pozen Prize—which this year includes a $75,000 award for the winning school—recognizing schools that consistently boost students’ achievements through innovative models, programs and practices.

In previous years, the Prize focused on Commonwealth charter schools in Greater Boston. Previous winners have included the Match High School (2016), Brooke Charter School Roslindale (2015) and Boston Preparatory Public Charter School, the inaugural winner in 2014.

Acknowledging that excellence and innovation can be found in a broad variety of contexts, the Pozen Prize expanded its scope in 2016 to include innovative district schools, including innovation, pilot and in-district charter schools. A selection panel of civic and community leaders reviewed applications and conducted site visits to the two finalist schools, ultimately selecting the Winter Hill Community Innovation School as the winner. The Paul Revere Innovation School, the Commonwealth’s first innovation school, was this year’s runner-up.

The prize was created by Boston Foundation donors Robert and Elizabeth Pozen. Robert is a former top executive of Fidelity Investments and MFS Investment Management, who now serves as a Senior Lecturer at the MIT Sloan School of Management and a Senior Research Fellow at the Brookings Institution. Elizabeth is a retired psychotherapist who is now focusing on her career as a figurative artist.

“For four years now, the Pozen Prize has recognized schools in our region that embody innovation and help students achieve academic excellence,” said Robert Pozen. “The Winter Hill—this year’s winner and the first district school to receive the prize—stood out from a strong pool of innovative schools with its staunch commitment to serving all students, including those most disadvantaged, with high expectations, strong supports and innovative practices.”

“This year’s two finalists—the only innovation school in Somerville and the first innovation school in our state—once again showed us that creativity, willingness to try new things, and embracing what works not only accelerates students’ success but also drives their love of learning,” said Paul S. Grogan, President and CEO of the Boston Foundation.

Over the past few years, the Winter Hill has modeled a number of innovations that have since spread to other Somerville schools, including inclusionary practices for students with autism, school-wide use of Responsive Classroom, and the incorporation of school climate surveys in school improvement plans. The school’s specialized and individualized instructional strategy—facilitated by its greater autonomy and self-governance—is serving a highly diverse community of learners while maintaining a core focus on inclusionary practices. The school’s student achievement growth consistently outperforms the state’s. Its English Language Learners and its students with disabilities, in particular, learn at accelerated rates compared with their peers statewide. A key driver of the school’s success has been its firm commitment to students’ social-emotional health as a critical piece of their successful academic experience. 

“At the Winter Hill, we believe that every student is uniquely positioned to succeed if given the right guidance and the necessary resources,” said Chad Mazza, Principal of the Winter Hill Community Innovation School. “Our status as an innovation school, and the increased autonomy that comes with that, has allowed us to introduce new educational and support practices that afford all of our students equitable opportunities for success. Everyone in the Winter Hill community—from students and parents to teachers and the community at large—are truly invested in our Wildcats’ education and thrilled to have been recognized with this year’s Pozen Prize.”

The Winter Hill Community School, which became an innovation school in 2013, is one of the most diverse schools in Somerville. More than three-quarters of its students are non-white; similar shares have high needs; half come from low-income families. One in six students lists a first language other than English, 30 percent are English Language Learners, and 29 percent are students with special needs. The school serves as Somerville’s Sheltered English Program for grades 5–8.

“We are thrilled and grateful to be home to this year’s winner of the Pozen Prize,” said Somerville Mayor Joseph A. Curtatone. “The Winter Hill School has been a true lab of innovation for Somerville and has spearheaded numerous new practices that now benefit not just students at the school but all students across the city.”


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