Sitting in his office on a sunny fall morning East Boston High School Headmaster Phil Brangiforte can’t help but gloat about his school, his staff, his students and the entire EBHS community.
Over the summer the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) voted to award the school continued accreditation with MCAS scores on the rise and the four-year graduation rate has been increasing year after year–hovering at 75 percent.
“I want to congratulate all of the staff members, students, and community partners in the East Boston High School family: the custodians, cafeteria workers, support staff, teachers and administrators who all do their part in ensuring that our students are afforded the opportunity to learn in a safe, clean, and welcoming environment,” said Brangiforte. “I have demanded a tremendous commitment from my colleagues over the past few years; they, in turn, elevated their expectations of student performance. While the road was sometimes difficult to navigate, everyone rose to the occasion, stayed the course, and put forth maximum effort each and every school day. The results? Higher student achievement, a welcoming educational environment, and a great atmosphere to work and learn.”
An EBHS graduate himself, Brangiforte admits that at times in the school’s recent past, EBHS has faced a bit of criticism for certain aspects of academic performance.
“I feel that it is critical to address this issue and offer some much-deserved praise to my staff and students,” said Brangiforte. “Ninety-one percent of our students are currently categorized as either having moderate or severe special needs, or are English language learners (ELLs). Put another way, only 9 percent of our students are considered ‘Regular Ed’. We also have one of the highest numbers of English language learners in the entire state.”
Why is this important?
Brangiforte says because EBHS not only embraces students from all ethnic, socioeconomic, and academic backgrounds, but also motivates them to achieve at the highest possible levels.
According to the Massachusetts Department of Education, in one year, East Boston High School moved from the fifth percentile to the 21st percentile in the state. Also, 80 percent of the schools current sophomores are classified as meeting their expected academic targets on the MCAS test.
“Our sophomores surpassed all expected target scores,” said Brangiforte. “What does this mean? Schools who do not reach their targets can face various levels of state intervention, but I am proud to say that East Boston High was one of only three high schools in the entire city of Boston – including the exam schools – to receive an overall classification of “not requiring” assistance or interventions.”
Brangiforte said perhaps the number that he has been most proud of is the school’s increasing four year graduation rate.
“While we are still awaiting results from the Class of 2018, our graduation rate has climbed from 56.1 percent when I began as Headmaster in 2014, to almost 75 percent in 2017,” he said. :The growth is all the more significant when we reflect upon some of the tremendous obstacles and hardships that many of our students face on a daily basis. I believe that several initiatives that we have implemented over the past five years have paved the way for measurable long-term success.”
First, Brangiforte said the school adopted an 80-minute block schedule, which allowed for more time on task for MCAS-related subjects.
“We have also gradually shifted from a teacher-centered to student-centered approach,” he said. “This basically means that if you enter our classrooms at any given time, you will see students working on a multitude of high-level tasks while the teachers act as facilitators, rather than lecturers. Also, our faculty has been instrumental in the successful implementation of Instructional Rounds, a collaborative approach that allows teachers to observe each other’s practices, provide non-judgmental feedback, and engage in organic discussions to improve instruction.”
EBHS has also made upgrades in technology include the addition of more than 800 Chromebook laptops, over $250,000 in science-lab upgrades, and the regular utilization of several educational applications, including ChalkTalk, Mathspace, and Achieve 3000.
“Aside from our recent MCAS success, last year, our school underwent a grueling accreditation process. Without going into great detail, after two years of preparation, a 130-page self study, and an intensive four-day visit by twenty respected educators from various schools, East Boston was granted Continued Accreditation by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC),” said Brangiforte. “This is a remarkable accomplishment for such a large urban school, and our dedication to the students did not go unnoticed. In the final report, East Boston High School was given dozens of commendations.”
Brangiforte said while he is proud of EBHS’s progress he understands that the real journey has just begun.
“We will continue to work hard to nurture, educate, and inspire every student who walks through our doors,” he said. “I am humbled and honored that the parents of my beloved city entrust me and my staff with their children’s academic and social development, and we are committed to make East Boston High the best school in the city of Boston.”