Students Need a Champion

Boston needs a champion who can restore the public’s faith in the schools. Struggling with long-term underperformance, the Boston Public Schools now face pandemic-induced learning losses and the looming threat of a state receivership. As she takes office, Mayor Wu has a unique opportunity to show the impact of having a mayor in charge of schools. She can lead the city to achieve real results for students by taking on five priorities.

Be the voice of the schools. Mayor Wu must communicate and make changes to the district that people can see, understand, and embrace. She must be the city’s leading advocate for students and use the influence of her bully pulpit to rebuild the public’s trust in the schools. But it is not enough to make policy promises—her message only resonates if she demonstrates that the Boston Public Schools are providing equity of opportunity AND results.

Demand innovation from the district. The Biden Administration’s American Recovery Plan is a big and bold commitment to public education. Boston is receiving more than $400 million in a three-year period. Mayor Wu’s use of these resources needs to be comparably big and bold.

Boston’s present and future is tied directly to an economy based on Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. Yet Boston’s students, particularly those traditionally underrepresented in STEM (low-income students, students of color and female students), show little progress in science and math achievement. They are not being prepared to succeed in this economy.

Mayor Wu can take the lead in ensuring all students have a robust STEM education. Providing STEM learning for all students in all grades at all schools is innovation that is big, bold and demonstrably benefits students.

Unleash the creativity of teachers. Mayor Wu has the opportunity to make the Boston Public Schools the innovation laboratory for teacher development in urban education. Teachers only get better with investments in their continued development. Examples of top-level talent development abound in the Boston area. Drawing on lessons from Boston’s hospital and technology sectors, and the accomplishments of the district’s best teachers, Mayor Wu can be the catalyst for making the city’s classrooms incubators for combining state-of-the-art research and creative teaching.

Engage parents as equal partners in school improvement. The locus of parent involvement is at the school level. Mayor Wu needs to emphasize the critical importance of including the perspectives of parents in how schools plan to advance student progress. She is uniquely positioned to draw attention to the voices most often underrepresented in school improvement efforts.

Commit every city department to the students of Boston. It falls to Mayor Wu to coalesce all city departments around collaborating and merging resources to support students. She should start by engaging every city department and high school student in a large-scale community service commitment. The departments provide paid internships to the students, while the students gain real-world experience in helping city government serve the public.

Mayor Wu’s election is a historic moment for Boston, it needs to be a pivotal moment as well. Her vision for the city is one of change and better results. Mayor Wu can show how progressive city governance wins the public’s trust and champions better results for students.