March is Education Month for the Obama administration, and this week the president traveled to TechBoston Academy in Dorchester. Along with Education Secretary Arne Duncan and philanthropist Melinda Gates, Obama says that he traveled to TechBoston so that “the rest of America can see how it’s done.” At a time where schools, urban schools especially, are struggling to raise graduation rates, TechBoston students are graduating 82 percent of the time.
What makes TechBoston so successful? According to President Obama, it’s the school’s unique partnerships in the public and private sectors. Companies like Microsoft and Google have contributed technology to the school, and donations from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Harvard University have kept the school staffed for the past decade. Students at TechBoston are each given a laptop for their time at the academy, and are all required to take four years each of math, science, and technology courses. Designated a “pilot school,” TechBoston Academy has fewer restrictions than public schools, allowing for both longer school days and a longer school year.
At a time where federal spending is being cut across the board, schools like TechBoston are important for President Obama’s education reform plans. Obama recently proposed plans to for a $90 million program called ARPA-ED, based on the Race to the Top program, where schools can compete for federal money based on advancing their classroom technologies. Schools like TechBoston are providing great models for the schools of the future, but the challenge now is to implement programs that work on a large scale. Said President Obama, “That’s why reforming education is the responsibility of every single American. Every parent, every teacher, every business person, every public official and yes, every student.”
Written by: Walter Palmer