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BPS Engages in Community Partnerships to Liberate Learning

Campus Without Walls program launches to reimagine education in Boston and beyond.

BOSTON (April 15, 2021) — Open Opportunity Massachusetts, in partnership with Boston Public Schools (BPS), Boston Opportunity Agenda, The Teachers’ Lounge, and BUILD.org, announces the launch of their first initiative, Campus Without Walls (CWW), a new statewide educational initiative designed to liberate learning and promote equity, access, and opportunity for all.

Campus Without Walls CWW leverages the power of communities and technology to build a broader education ecosystem by virtually opening classrooms and education programs to students across the city; regardless of their neighborhood of residence or school assignment. This month, CWW launched as a new statewide educational initiative in partnership with 15 Boston-based schools, 13 community-based organizations, and two universities to serve 1,500 students and over 40 teachers. The program plans to expand to Gateway Cities across Massachusetts, and later throughout the entire Commonwealth.

As distance learning models have been piloted across the country in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, CWW sheds light on the opportunity to leverage the power of technology to challenge inequities in education. Students are no longer bound by zip codes or school assignments to define the quality and access to education and resources they can receive. For instance, a student at TechBoston Academy will now be able to take a History class at Fenway High School or vice versa. Given CWW’s statewide ambition, eventually, a student in Framingham could take an English class taught by an innovative teacher in Lawrence. Through this statewide, cross-sector collaboration of schools, universities, employers, nonprofits, and out-of-school-time providers, zip codes and school assignments no longer limit a student’s access to educational opportunities.

“Campus Without Walls is a promising initiative that will open up a world of opportunities for  students through Boston and the state. As we reimagine our approach to traditional education spaces, we look to our new opportunity to leverage technology to accelerate opportunity,” shared BPS Superintendent Brenda Cassellius. “BPS is excited to learn more about this new program, which will allow students increased access to expanded learning opportunities and resources beyond the traditional classroom. This initiative activates partnerships and supports our shared mission to provide each student with an excellent and equitable education.”

Through CWW’s initial pilot, BPS teachers along with teachers from other CWW partner schools have signed up their classes to participate in mini units led by Lead Teachers from other district, charter, parochial, and private schools throughout Boston. Lead Teachers in the spring pilot represent Another Course to College, Boston Collegiate Charter School, Brooke Charter School, Cathedral High School, Charlestown High School, Community Academy of Science & Health, Excel High School, Fenway High School, Josiah Quincy Upper School, Madison Park High School, Noble and Greenough School, John D. O’Bryant School of Mathematics and Science, Roxbury Prep High School, and TechBoston Academy.

All courses are taught with an emphasis on a culturally responsive, anti-racist, decolonized curriculum. Over 30 academic and enrichment units are being offered this spring, such as Rhetoric is Your Superpower, Black Studies, Using Politics to Improve Participation in Elections, Statistics Around Us, and more.

Hosted through Outschool.org’s online learning platform, students and teachers will participate in these mini units virtually while still earning academic credit from their home campus. Once schools fully reopen, students will still be able to Zoom into these classes. The goal is for all students to be intrinsically motivated, gain greater access, and take full advantage of a wide range of learning opportunities, both in-person and online, in order to prepare them to thrive in a rapidly changing world.

“Campus Without Walls is liberating where students learn, how they learn, and what they learn. Now is the time to make sure that on the other side of this pandemic, that we never go back to normal because normal was not working for so many Black and Brown children,” shared Ayele Shakur, co-founder of Campus Without Walls and CEO of BUILD.org, a national youth entrepreneurship program. “Imagine what’s possible if we can do better than normal. We're using  innovation to usher in the future of education by liberating learning and trying something imaginative and new.”

CWW is made possible through generous funding and support from the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation, Nellie Mae Education Foundation, The Boston Foundation, Outschool.org, and Comcast NBCUniversal, who donated 100 laptops for participating students. 

In May, CWW will recruit a second cohort of Lead Teachers to virtually open their classrooms in the fall and will also begin outreach to additional Boston schools, districts, and cities. The hope is for Massachusetts Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funding to be used to replicate this game-changing model statewide. Discover more about Campus Without Walls and how to get involved at www.openopportunityma.org/campuswithoutwalls.

About Campus Without Walls

Campus Without Walls is an initiative hosted by Open Opportunity Massachusetts (OOMA), a network committed to building and advancing community-centered solutions that create the resources and opportunities youth and families need to reach the ambitious goals they set for themselves. Together, OOMA’s coalition of 40 cross-sector organizations – representing education, health care, housing, and workforce development – is dismantling systemic and racial barriers that stand in their way.