Archive for February, 2015

Connolly on 1 student at a time

It’s both fair and unfair that John Connolly will always be known as Boston’s almost Mayor. He came very close in the last election (disclaimer: I endorsed him).

Yet over a year later, he’s immersed in his real passion — education. He joined Left Ahead today to talk about his 1647 pilot program to make public school work, one student at a time.

If you want the background, you can keep checking he 1647 website, but it now is nude, with only contact info. You can get the basics of Connolly’s role in a Boston Globe article here. To see the organization that showed Connolly how to do home visits and other family engagement, replete with numerous research documents, check the Flamboyen Foundation here. Flamboyen ran with the home-visit process and perfected it in Puerto Rico and D.C.

After the mayoral race, Connolly wasn’t up for practicing law or running for public office again. Instead, he settled into Chris Gabrieli’s National Center on Time & Learning in Boston in a small space. He’s launched the 1647 pilot program, with a single paid staffer. He’s been working with teachers in a school in Salem as proof of concept locally. They’ll expand there, then on to another gateway city, and eventually to Boston.

Listen in as he speaks of the concept, at once commonsensical and idealistic. At its rawest, it means a teacher arranging with one or both parents to visit the home to find out how the student studies and learn best. Parents are understandably wary at first, thinking the call is because the kid is in trouble. The next reaction is incredulity; no teacher has ever wanted to know how my child learns.

Of course, done well, this process almost invariably leads to such advances as higher grades, better attendance, and parents knowing what to do to help their kids. The investment up front by teachers is big, with bigger benefits.

I asked the obvious, such as do you have to compensate the teachers (yes), are parents, teachers and students suspicious (yes), and does it make much difference if the home has books, internet, educated parents and other resources (not really as that’s not the point of the home-visit process). Instead, listen in as Connolly speaks about the key factor in the per-student relationship, trust.

He gave an example of the adversarial relationship parents typically had with school before the home visits and how that changed. The teachers did have to put out, but the payback was substantial.


icon for podpress  John Connolly 1647 [33:32m]: Play Now | Play in Popup | Download


Is Boston Broken?

Snow, even lots of it, in New England is not some wacky act of God, on a par with tornadoes, hurricanes, tidal waves and such. Boston’s inability to clear its streets and the MBTA’s to run its trains, buses and trolleys says bad things about us.

I looked at those and beyond. Let’s recall the inane reactions to the toy LED displays of Mooninites. The other 9 or 10 cities who got a couple of these took ’em down and went on. We paralyzed roads and waterways. This goes to a silly post-9-11 paranoia that permeates our society even beyond here.

I suggest fixes in several areas, some very hard. Several require both vision and courage of our Mayor and our Governor.

icon for podpress  Is Boston Broken? [28:05m]: Play Now | Play in Popup | Download


Tweaking Boston Schools One Kid at a Time

John Connolly1647, when Boston opened its first public school, and now 1647 is a nascent organization to change education here. He was the education City Councilor and didn’t give up on it after he lost his race for Mayor. He comes on to explain his theories, methods, aims and results.

If you can listen live, click here on Tuesday, February 24th at 2:30 PM Eastern. You can catch his show anytime afterward at that link, back here at Left Ahead, or on our iTunes page.


February Boston Updates

Boston City HallSnow is more than a conversation starter in Boston. It’ll be a serious catalyst for fights and changes.

I talk about how our mayor and governor have been forced into facing phalanges primed for battle. Our subways, commuter rail and buses are shut down. I discussed the underlying causes, but the tow bigs will assign blame. We can hope when the political blood dries, we can get to those base causes.

Otherwise, I talked about some of the pending actions and excitement, mostly in city hall. The terrible weather has delayed guest scheduling, but I’ll try to line up some of the most active city councilors — Steve Murphy (BYOB scheme), Josh Zakim (casino referendum for November), and Tit Jackson (commission for Black and Latino men and boys).

If we ever see 32F or higher again, it’ll warm in Boston. Meanwhile, we can be sure the political climate heats up.

icon for podpress  Feb. 2015 Boston Updates [24:08m]: Play Now | Play in Popup | Download