Working for Excellence for ALL in the Boston Public Schools

What do the following have in common: the Midwest, Martin Luther King Jr., and a 21st century cafeteria? These aren’t answers to a weird question on a standardized test; they’re topics explored by fourth- and fifth-grade students in the Boston Public Schools (BPS) as part of the Excellence for All Capstone Project.

The Capstone Project is a way for students to demonstrate knowledge and skills they will need as they prepare for the demands of high-level curricula in higher grades. Students identified a topic of interest, then completed an intensive, fully integrated “deep dive.” They developed research skills, learned executive function strategies, and assessed their own progress along the way, culminating in a presentation of their work. As “guides on the side,” teachers provided students with support and resources to navigate their inquiry. By building on personal interests in a collaborative environment, the Capstone is designed to deepen students’ love of learning while teaching skills that are essential to success in students’ academic lives and beyond.

Here at SMARTS, we were honored to have the opportunity to work with BPS teachers to help students navigate the Capstone successfully. We spent time in fourth- and fifth-grade classrooms, discussing the importance of executive function, talking about how to use strategies to accomplish challenging academic tasks, and helping students create their truly impressive products.

At the Capstone showcase recently held at the Reggie Lewis Athletic Center in Roxbury, students provided parents and community members with presentations and displays of their inquiry learning. We saw dioramas, posters, movies, parodies of pop songs, and more!

As one school administrator commented, “We are witnessing examples of learning that extend beyond the classroom and into real life. It doesn’t get any better than this!”

As proud partners of the Boston Public Schools, we are excited to continue our work!

  • Kim Davis, M.Ed., Senior Associate for Research and Teacher Training