Orchard Gardens is currently under-going a dramatic transformation from one of the lowest performing schools in the state into a school for academic, arts and foreign language excellence. Orchard Gardens enrolls approximately 800 students – more than 90% qualify for free or reduced lunch, 25% are learning to speak English, and 25% require Individual Education Plans to meet special needs. Since the school’s opening in 2003, Orchard Gardens has been one of the lowest performing schools in the Commonwealth. The school’s relatively short but tumultuous history – five principals in seven years, more than 50% teacher turnover every year, and a teaching force consisting of primarily novice educators – has put the interests of adults over those of children and has led to unacceptable levels of achievement among students year after year. As a result, the student failure rate on the MCAS exam was one of the highest not only in Boston Public Schools, but also across the state.
In September 2010 Orchard Gardens launched a new beginning with the goal of becoming one of the top achieving schools in the state of Massachusetts. As one of 12 recently designated “Turnaround” schools in Boston, Orchard Gardens gained significant new flexibility to re-staff the school with the highest quality teachers and leaders, implement significant instructional changes, and expand the school day. The theory of change driving the turnaround involves the integration of three core strategies: improved effectiveness of the school’s people, relentless use of data to differentiate and improve instruction, and significantly increased learning time. Together, these elements combine to ensure that students get the time and quality instruction they need to achieve proficiency. The school’s new leadership team replaced 80% of the previous staff and invested heavily in recruiting experienced teachers from across the city and country who have demonstrated significant gains in student achievement.
The new vision for Orchard Gardens is a school that guarantees all students a rigorous academic experience provided in an environment that values and celebrates strong relationships between students, staff, families, and community. All students will believe in their ability to achieve and be offered a wide range of enrichments to be fully prepared for success in college and career.
The results after the first year have been encouraging with significant increases in the numbers of students reading at grade level and the % of students proficient on grade level math assessments.
Our team believes that the exciting transformation of one of Boston’s lowest performing public schools will serve as a national model for school turnaround.