The Patrick O'Hearn School, Boston, Massachusetts
The Patrick O'Hearn School offers an example of the effective use of public engagement at the school level. The video profiles the unique partnerships that exist among the principal, teachers, parents, and students at O'Hearn. The presentation about O'Hearn is followed by discussions among two parents, an administrator, and a teacher and among a group of experienced public engagement practitioners.
O'Hearn is a K-5 public elementary school of 250 students, located in the Dorchester section of Boston. The school draws students from neighborhoods across the city as part of Boston's school-choice plan. O'Hearn serves a diverse group of families of multiple ethnicities and economic backgrounds. Over 65 percent of O'Hearn's students qualify for free or reduced lunch. O'Hearn is also an inclusion school, integrating large numbers of children with exceptionalities and learning disabilities in its programs.
Nine years ago a new principal began working with the faculty to determine new directions to raise student achievement. After a school evaluation process, the faculty decided that O'Hearn parents needed to play a greater role in the learning of their children. They were determined to develop a "parent-friendly" school, one in which parents would play an active role in student learning and in managing the school in partnership with teachers. With the establishment of a working group of teachers and parents, the creation of a parent center, and the adoption of a reading contract program, O'Hearn parents began to learn new roles of active participation in their children's learning and in the school.
Today O'Hearn parents are fully involved in the education of their children. Over 95 percent attend parent-teacher conferences. Fully 100 percent of children and their parents participate in the school's reading contract program. Parents and teachers are equal members of curriculum and school site councils, and parents participate in everything from textbook and materials selection to teacher selection and program development.
O'Hearn uses a broad range of assessment and accountability devices to determine student success. Student achievement has shown steady improvement, and O'Hearn ranked highest of any Boston school in recent Massachusetts statewide performance tests.