Fenway High School, founded in 1983 as an alternative to large public schools, became a pilot school in 1995 and has autonomy around schedule, curriculum and assessment, budget, governance and staffing. Fenway's success with urban adolescents is due to three core principles: students are respected as individuals by teachers and peers; they are given meaningful intellectual challenges; and they see the application of their school learning to the "real world." Teachers in the 3 core content ares -- math, science and humanities -- teach the same cohort of students for at least two years, creating a strong connection between teachers and students and families. Fenway's close community partnerships ensure that students meet demands of the post-graduation world. Fenway has 360 students in grades 9-12: 52% Hispanic; 36% African American; 6% White; 4% Asian; 2% mixed/other. 21% have documented learning disabilities; 50% come from homes where English is not the primary language, and in 2014, the last year such data was collected, 75% were considered low-income. Although many Fenway freshmen come in with skills below grade level, 95% graduate and over 85% are admitted to college; the majority attend 4-year colleges. Fenway was named a National Blue Ribbon School by the U.S. Department of Education in 2012 and has been recognized by the Coalition of Schools Educating Boys of Color for its work in narrowing the achievement gap and by the Mauricio Gaston Institute for its work with Latino students.
Fenway's essential question last year and again this year is focused on the CES Principle of Student as Worker; Teacher as Coach. Last year the Teaching and Learning team at Fenway developed a rubric to describe and evaluate what "Student as Worker; Teacher as Coach" looks like in the classroom.
Fenway's greatest strength lies in the many ways that it builds community -- among students, among faculty, between faculty and students and with families. Structural decisions, made and confirmed over the years, have fostered a learning environment in which every student (and every teacher) is respected and supported as an individual and is encouraged to think and speak for him or herself. The school is at a crossroads in its evolution because structures that have served Fenway students so well, such as the "house system", are less sustainable as the school population expands.
Another strength of Fenway is the centrality of student support. Fenway has three students support counselors, one for every 120 students. An underlying premise at Fenway is that students need to feel safe -- intellectually, emotionally and physically - if they are expected to take risks to succeed academically.
Engaging students with rigorous, intellectual instruction is a key to keeping them engaged and in school. All students take four years of math, science, humanities and advisory. Additional required courses include Foundations of Literacy for freshmen and sophomores, Spanish, physical education and Ventures, a school to career course of study for seniors that culminates in a six-week, full-time internship. Sophomores take arts electives for a full credit of art.
Fenway moved to a renovated facility on Mission Hill in Boston in September 2015. As part of the move, a cohort of Spanish-speaking English Language Learners joined the school. This cohort, which will grow over four years to 80 students, brings opportunities for engagement with the students and families and also challenges as the school will grow to 400.