District Strategy Introduction

AB Compass
District Strategy - An Introduction

June, 2021

Members of the Acton-Boxborough Community,

When I joined the A-B Community nearly three years ago, I was struck by the community’s passion for education and pride in our public schools.  Over the last three years, we have shared many experiences including a global pandemic, a period of school closure, and our students’ return to school.  We have learned a lot about our students, their families and the community.  This District Strategy represents important areas of growth before the pandemic, and includes lessons learned and priorities for our schools as we emerge from the pandemic and look toward a brighter future.  At the heart of this strategy, we believe that every child in our schools deserves to be loved, valued, challenged and supported.  We will focus improvement around four primary goals or objectives: engaged learning, inclusive practices, equitable opportunities and outcomes, and social emotional learning. 

We are all fortunate to be part of a school system that has long been regarded as one of the finest in the state and nation.  We want to continue this tradition of excellence for our students, families, and community.  We need to maintain a course of improvement for all students, and simultaneously examine who our schools may be under-serving, and make necessary improvements.

Engaged Learning

We want our students to think deeply about their learning, be effective problem solvers and remain persistent when faced with challenges.  We also want them to be passionate, and see their work as both relevant and valuable to their lives.  These big ideas are framed in educational language as cognitive engagement, affective (behavioral) engagement, and emotional engagement (Creating Opportunity to Learn; Boyken and Noguera, Ch. 3 Engagement; 201; ASCD).   Our most recent student surveys administered through Challenge Success found that students’ reports of engagement decreased significantly from elementary school through high school.   To improve engagement, we will work with all stakeholders in our community to develop a unified vision of the knowledge, skills, and habits of mind to prepare students for life after high school.  We will then use this vision to expand the variety and relevance of learning experiences students experience in our schools.  Through this work, we will also examine and implement grading,  assessment, and leveling practices that support the vision, use lessons learned from remote learning and the pandemic to improve student engagement, and expand learning opportunities for students in the areas of Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts and Mathematics (STEAM).

Inclusive Practices

Every student and family who our schools serve deserves to feel welcomed and included in their school community.  Over the last several years, we have heard that not all of our students and families feel valued and welcomed.  We want to focus on improving relationships between and among students and adults with the school to improve the climate and culture in all of our schools.  To do this for all students, we need to focus on those students and groups our schools have traditionally underserved or who are underrepresented.  We need to ensure that our students see themselves in our curriculum and that all of our instructional practices and materials are responsive to our students and families. We need an outstanding and diverse group of leaders and educators who use practices that are inclusive and respond to all of the cultures in our community, who have examined their own biases to improve those practices, and who understand how racism, xenophopbia, anti-semitism, sexism, gender bias and other forms of bias have impacted students’ feelings of connection to our schools.  Most importantly, we need to engage with and listen to our students and families to understand how they experience our schools and amplify their voices to drive improvement.

Equitable Opportunities and Outcomes

Improvement efforts should be focused on improving outcomes for our students.  Focusing on equity means that we need to closely examine and improve outcomes for all students, and we need to ensure that every student has access to equitable opportunities regardless of their gender, socioeconomic status, race, disability, gender identity or other differentiating characteristics.  We need to ensure that every student has access to effective systems of support that allow them to achieve their potential.  This is particularly important in areas proven to be foundational to school and life success such as literacy, mathematics, social emotional and behavioral learning.  In order to provide these supports in a timely fashion, we need to ensure effective evidence-based screening, instruction and assessments in these areas.  As we examine students’ opportunities at the beginning and end of their educational careers, we will work to implement tuition-free All Day Kindergarten so all students can equitably access early education,  and for students nearing the end of their preK-12 educational careers, work to have more equitable representation for historically underserved populations in our advanced coursework.  Finally, we want to ensure that all of our disciplinary processes treat students fairly and equitably.

Social Emotional Learning

It has been a longstanding goal of our schools to provide appropriate support for our students' mental health and wellness, and our educators and families’ well-being is an important element of this work.  As we continue to grow our work around social emotional learning, we will improve our ability to address social-emotional competencies in a proactive manner as we do in other areas of learning such as literacy and mathematics.  To do this, we will identify, define and communicate those core social-emotional competencies we want all students to develop.  We will need to ensure that these competencies are embedded in students' daily learning experiences in all academic settings.  Finally, we will make sure that regardless of school or classroom setting, all students have access to social, emotional and behavioral services and supports. 

A Strategy is slightly different from a Strategic Plan in that it is designed to set a direction forward, yet remain flexible enough to respond to changes over time.  This strategy is designed for long-term improvement and we will take on initiatives in an order that is designed to maintain progress in each objective over time.  As we begin initiatives, we will develop and share action plans and intended outcomes.  Over the next few months, we will be developing and sharing key indicators of success and equity for each of our four objectives.  These indicators will serve as benchmarks over time in measuring our progress in improving our schools.  We are excited to begin this journey with our community and look forward to speaking with you more about how we can continue to improve our schools.


Peter Light

Superintendent of Schools

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