BAA receives national ‘Schools of Opportunity’ recognition

Boston Arts Academy is one of only 20 schools from across the country to receive recognition as a “School of Opportunity,” a coveted national designation honoring excellent public high schools that engage in practices that build on students’ strengths and create supported learning opportunities for all students.

“This honor is evidence of how public education can serve our students,” said Mayor Martin J. Walsh. “We’re continuing to strive in our work to close opportunity and achievement gaps and meet the diverse needs of every student. Congratulations to the students and staff of the Boston Arts Academy.”

The National Education Policy Center (NEPC), based at the University of Colorado Boulder, sponsors the Schools of Opportunity project, which identifies excellent public high schools that actively strive to close opportunity gaps – the differences in opportunities and resources that drive the well-known achievement gaps.

“On behalf of the School Committee, I would like to extend congratulations to the students and educators at BAA,” said Boston School Committee Chairperson Michael O’Neill. “This institution has demonstrated a creative and unique method for supporting students. We’re extremely proud of this accomplishment.”

Applications went through four levels of screening by review teams comprised of researchers, teachers, policy makers and administrators, who looked at school practices that fell into categories, such as create and maintain healthy school culture; broaden and enrich school curriculum; use a variety of assessments designed to respond to student needs; and support teachers as professionals.

“Our goal at BPS is to transform the lives of each and every single child for the better through education,” said Superintendent Tommy Chang. “Being part of ‘Schools of Opportunity’ is a great honor. Through a multidisciplinary approach, the BAA community has focused its efforts on building up every student through the arts, as well as through building a supportive and nurturing environment. We are extremely excited for them as they are recognized for this work.”

With a large economically disadvantaged population, Boston Arts Academy enrolls student who had limited access to arts education prior to enrollment. The school leverages interest in the arts to provide a strong academic program that builds self-confidence along with talent. Unlike many public schools for the arts, the academy does not use test scores, grades or attendance to determine admittance and it deliberately builds diversity.

“Boston Arts Academy’s innovative approach to curriculum and student support particularly stood out to the national team of reviewers,” said Carol Burris, School of Opportunity project co-director.

As part of a lengthened school day, students attend academic classes and 2.5 hours of daily arts classes.

“Schools play a key role in a student’s life and learning, and we should hold up excellent schools as exemplars,” explains Kevin Welner NEPC director and project co-director. “Students’ learning arises from more than just what happens in school. Research suggests that about one-third of variance among students’ test scores can be attributed to schools, with the remainder likely due to poverty-related factors. Because schools play this important but not controlling role in measured learning, the Schools of Opportunity project rejects the idea that test scores identify the nation’s best schools.”

“We instead offer an alternative way of assessing school quality-one that focuses on the day-to-day practices that schools choose to use,” said Welner. “We call attention to research-based practices to support all students and their teachers, thereby creating engaged and successful learning environments.”

For more information about the Schools of Opportunity project, including descriptions of all recognized schools, visit

“The arts have the power to transform lives,” says Headmaster Anne R. Clark. “For many students, including students who struggle academically or suffer from social/emotional issues, the arts are a pathway to success. The arts develop creativity, critical thinking skills, self-discipline, perseverance, and the ability to work collaboratively. At Boston Arts Academy, we push students to take creative risks and to use the arts to advocate for causes they believe in.”