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Boston Public Schools Receives Wallace Foundation Grant to Help Students Develop Social and Emotional Skills

BPS will partner with Boston After School & Beyond for initiative 

Boston, MA - Thursday, December 15, 2016 - The Boston Public Schools will share a $400,000 grant with Boston After School & Beyond, a local nonprofit organization that coordinates afterschool programs citywide. Together, they will devise a plan to help children in Boston develop vital social and emotional skills that are linked to success in school, career and life. A few of the features they will focus on are: teamwork, persistence, goal-setting, self-control and getting along with others. 

"This generous contribution and ongoing partnership between Boston Public Schools and Boston After School & Beyond enables our students to directly benefit from collaborative learning activities," said Mayor Martin J. Walsh. "Team building is one of the many important lessons that will help our students succeed now and later in life."

BPS and Boston After School & Beyond are one of nine community partner pairs nationwide to receive a planning grant. The grants are the first phase in the Partnerships for Social and Emotional Learning Initiative, a new, multi-year effort by The Wallace Foundation to better understand how schools and afterschool partners can improve and align experiences and climate to foster children's social and emotional learning.

"Afterschool programs are essential to the growth of positive social and emotional skills among our students," said Superintendent Tommy Chang. "We are grateful to both the Wallace Foundation and Boston After School & Beyond for their continued support; and for furthering our work in providing our students with the opportunity to develop skills in safe and welcoming environments." 

"Afterschool programs are essential to the growth of positive social and emotional skills among our students."

A growing body of research, including the Wallace-commissioned University of Chicago study Foundations for Young Adult Success, has linked social and emotional learning--which are known by different terms including non-cognitive skills, character and soft skills--to success in school, career and life. It is not yet known, however, how school and afterschool experiences can be aligned and delivered in real-world, urban settings to help develop these skills.

Technical assistance and guidance will be provided to each pair of partners from national experts affiliated with the Weikart Center for Youth Program Quality, the Forum for Youth Investment and the Center for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL).
The Boston partners were among 24 districts with high proportions of disadvantaged students that were invited to apply for the planning grant last spring. The Foundation drew those candidates from a pool of 145 which were identified by scans and nominations from the field. The initiative builds on The Wallace Foundation's years of work in youth development, including a 12-year effort to encourage citywide coordination for afterschool that yielded more than 40 publications, as well as work with urban school districts.
"There's tremendous interest in helping children to develop the positive attributes and skills that are associated with well-being in and out of school and many models are being tested," said Nancy Devine, the director of learning and enrichment at The Wallace Foundation. "We're interested in exploring how an intentional partnership between school districts and organizations that provide programming during out-of-school hours can benefit young students."
"Boston's afterschool programs are committed to working with schools to improve and measure vital social and emotional skills," said Chris Smith, executive director of Boston After School & Beyond. "This exciting new work is an opportunity to strengthen a citywide strategy."

Through the planning grant period, school districts and afterschool intermediaries will collaborate to improve adult practices that support the development of students' social and emotional skills.

As part of the Mayor's citywide strategy to close opportunity and achievement gaps, he recently joined leaders from 127 summer learning programs to unveil the results of a national study which showed Boston's summer learning effort outpacing its peers. Boston is one of five cities participating in the $50 million National Summer Learning Project, which is also funded by The Wallace Foundation and evaluated by RAND.

This investment by the Wallace Foundation comes at an opportune time for Boston Public Schools. Amalio Nieves, assistant superintendent for social emotional learning and wellness, seeks to develop and support the integration of social emotional learning standards into teacher practices and student skill development across the district. 

In the next phase, in summer 2017, up to six district-intermediary pairs will be selected from among the nine cities chosen for planning grants to receive three-year implementation grants from Wallace. This phase will also include comprehensive research by The RAND Corporation to provide useful new evidence to the field.