In July 2016, Mass Insight Education and Research was awarded a grant from the Massachusetts Teaching and Learning Network (MassTLN) to launch the first-of-its-kind Gateway to College Success Network. The Network aims to put more Massachusetts students, particularly those in Gateway Cities, on a path to college success by dramatically improving teaching and learning in grades 6 through 12. There are five Gateway City school districts participating: Fitchburg, Holyoke, New Bedford, Springfield, and Worcester.
Mass Insight serves as the convener of the Network, which is governed by the superintendents of the five participating districts. Mass Insight staff coordinates the Network’s day-to-day operations, plans and facilitates meetings within the districts and across districts, as well as oversees research and evaluation work, and provides direct implementation support to each district.
This Network is a direct outgrowth of work Mass Insight has done with each of these five districts to expand the number and diversity of students taking AP classes.
In January 2016 Mass Insight asked these five district superintendents what they needed to ensure even more students in their districts were college and career ready. They responded that they wanted to partner with Mass Insight and other districts to advance two key areas: 1) Improving and aligning instruction in grades 6 through 12 so that every student can achieve the Massachusetts state standards; and 2) Removing systemic barriers that interfere with creating a culture of college success in Gateway City high schools.
Massachusetts, which currently leads the nation in the number of adults who hold college degrees, is facing a “degree gap” – the state’s colleges and universities are not producing enough graduates with the skills required by its future workforce, threatening both the futures of our students and the strength of the Commonwealth’s economy. According to a recent Massachusetts Department of Higher Education report, graduation rates are lagging behind state goals, especially for students of color, and by 2022 the overall rate at which young residents earn college degrees will pivot from growth to decline.
The districts in the Network are all committed to working together to significantly improve teaching and learning at the middle and high school levels so that more students are prepared for the rigors of college work. If students have the tools they need to persist in college, they are more likely to obtain a degree – that degree will not only increase their job prospects and earning potential but also benefit their families and communities.
Networks facilitate strong professional relationships and encourage participants to share best practices that facilitate innovation. The Network districts believe that by working together, they will achieve greater gains and see results more quickly.
The purpose of the Network is to dramatically increase student success by aligning instruction in grades 6 through 12 and giving students access to rigorous and personalized learning. Research shows that students who have the opportunity to take college-level courses while still in high school are more likely to persist in college.
With Mass Insight as the hub, the Network districts will:
- Share current practices within and across districts to vertically and horizontally align instruction in grades 6 through 12;
- Work with teachers, principals, and central office staff to develop and implement these practices in targeted schools; and
- Measure the impact of these practices on teacher instruction in ways that can be shared among network participants to accelerate the implementation of best practices.
These efforts will inform the development and revision of processes and practices at the school and district levels.
MassTLN has provided a $1.5 million grant to be spread over two years – $480,000 is for the districts to spend at their discretion in accordance with grant requirements; nearly $800,000 is for technical assistance, tools, research, and assessments for the districts; and the remainder supports related travel, materials, and supplies.