Evidence of Success

As we prepare for 2012, we are in the process of improving and enhancing our programs based upon all of the feedback we received in 2011. From evaluations, surveys and teacher interviews we have gleaned insight and received input that we are directly incorporating into our programs in order to best serve students and teachers. 

Arthur Pearson recently distributed his President’s Winter Update to many of our stakeholders in which he details some of the evaluation data received by our Connections Program in 2011.  Concurrently he distributed a white paper entitled “Evidence of Success: Using the Outdoors to Improve Academics and Character Development for Boston’s Young People.”  Arthur has agreed to be our guest blogger and below we have included excerpts from his update.

To request a copy of the “Evidence of Success” report, please click here.

Paul Lamoureux, Vice President, Programs

Thursday, February 2, 2012
By: Arthur N. Pearson, President and CEO

While Thompson Island hibernates in winter silence, we have great news to share about the impact we are having on Boston’s young people.  Through independent evaluation, we have crossed an important threshold in demonstrating strong evidence of success in improving academic skills and developing character.

In 2011 the National Institute on Out-of-School Time completed a second year of independently funded evaluation which included Thompson Island Outward Bound Education Center.  In both years our students showed 2 to 3 times the improvement in character-related skills compared to their peers in equivalent programs across Boston and Massachusetts.  This past summer the Institute also evaluated gains in Mathematics and English Language Arts and in these skills our students again showed 2 to 3 times the improvement compared to local and statewide benchmarks.

Furthermore, a separate independent evaluation provided insight into how we generate those striking results. In 2011 the RAND Corporation utilized a rigorous observational protocol to score the quality of dozens of hands-on learning sessions at Thompson Island.  From insect collection to challenge course events, these sessions are the experiential building blocks of all our programs, whether a one-day science exploration, overnight team building retreat, 12-day sailing expedition, or five-week summer learning program.

Thompson Island earned the highest quality score of all seven program sites observed by RAND in Boston. Our students’ success is not by coincidence.  It is by consistent investment in program design, curriculum development, staff training, evaluation and investment in the extraordinary outdoor classroom that is Thompson Island.

Our mission is to create opportunities that raise young people’s aspirations and teach the skills they need to achieve them is more relevant than ever.  These are opportunities that all parents want for their children.  These are opportunities that researchers, policy makers and educators know are essential to closing the pervasive achievement gap that burdens those students who are most at risk and most in need—the highest priority of public education for more than a decade.

This past August, Massachusetts Secretary of Education Paul Reville visited Thompson Island to observe our program.  His remarks put our work in perspective:

“Six hours a day, 180 days a year just isn’t going to be enough to close the achievement gap. It’s a failing strategy. The idea that schooling alone will solve the problem is too narrow a conception… Those of us who have the advantage of privilege in our life, this is what we do for our own children… we should want for all children what we want for our own children.” 

It won’t be long before the frozen salt marshes thaw and we again hear the excitement of young people in search of their first encounter with hermit crabs… or in kayaks and sailing boats seeking new horizons of adventure and challenge… all of them discovering themselves along the way. And, as Secretary Reville agrees, it is these special experiences, in settings filled with wonder and amazement, which will create lasting learning moments and memories… and is ultimately what we want for all of our children.

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