One Principal’s Report Card

Running a school with no extended learning day, and more than 700 students who ride buses from as far away as East Boston, principal Mary Driscoll understands what it means to have a partner like Steppingstone: It means more students gain access to extra academic instruction on-site. It means students who lack resources and live at a distance can take advantage of a supportive community. But, most of all, it means more students can dream of going to college.

“Steppingstone’s College Success Academy takes students and whole families by the hand, beginning in fourth grade, and tells them it’s possible to think about college,” says Mary Driscoll, the principal of the Thomas A. Edison K-8 School in Brighton. “It creates a core of college-minded middle-school students, who become a leaven in the dough of the whole school community.”

Modeled after Steppingstone’s first initiative, The Steppingstone Academy, the College Success Academy runs summer and after-school programs for middle-school students in Boston public schools who want to ready themselves for a college prep curriculum in high school.

“We have this cohort of students that spends extra time during the summer and three afternoons a week during the school year on academics,” reports Driscoll. This year, nearly a third of Edison’s fifth graders enrolled in Steppingstone’s rigorous program. “They begin to understand how to become good students and how to conduct themselves in the world,” she observes. “This tends to rub off on peers and the rest of the school community. Having even a handful of Scholars in a classroom helps teachers get more traction with the entire class.”

But the impact the College Success Academy has on the school community doesn’t stop at the classroom threshold, Driscoll points out. “Many of our families are immigrant families. They don’t speak English, and they don’t necessarily understand school culture in this country.” In fact, more than 40 percent of Edison students are English language learners. “The College Success Academy builds another bridge for them. It teaches them that college can be within reach.”

Posted in 2013