President Barack Obama and Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick listen as Orchard Gardens Elementary School students recite Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s “I Have a Dream" speech in the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House, Feb. 28, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
On February 28th, Governor Deval Patrick brought a first grade class from Orchard Gardens K-8 School in Roxbury to meet President Barack Obama at the White House.
The students recited Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech for the President in the Diplomatic Reception Room in celebration of Black History Month.
“This is a once in a lifetime opportunity for these kids,” said Governor Patrick. “I am so proud of the educators and students at Orchard Gardens for the progress they have made academically.”
The school opened in a brand new facility in 2003 bringing promise to a troubled, though deeply engaged neighborhood. Despite its state-of-the-art facility, its committed and well-intentioned stakeholders, and supportive community, the school had languished with poor test scores. In 2010, the school was designated as one of Boston’s turnaround schools and is now empowered to take full advantage of the flexibilities allowed by the Patrick-Murray Administration’s Achievement Gap Act and federal turnaround grant funding. The school has already demonstrated incredible progress.
As a turnaround school, Orchard Gardens’ new school leader, Andrew Bott has been able to overhaul staff and hire only those who are deeply committed to mission of school, extend school hours, infuse professional development, use data as a driving force and make appropriate programmatic changes to fit needs of students.
In addition to a rigorous curriculum, students have music, art, drama, dance, gym, and sports. Middle school students now stay at the school until 5:15 p.m. to take advantage of extra learning time.
Early signs indicate that students are already faring better academically and emotionally, and the school has seen parental involvement dramatically increase. While MCAS scores at Orchard Gardens are still low, they were much higher 2011 than in 2010. In English, the portion of students in grades 3-8 scoring proficient or advanced this past spring increased 10 percentage points to 30 percent. In math, the scores in those categories jumped 16 percentage points to 35 percent.
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