About the Barr Foundation "Wider Learning Ecosystem" Initiative

In March 2016, the Barr Foundation announced a new Education Program goal to increase the number of New England youth who connect to success, both in and beyond high school. To reach this goal, the Education strategy focuses on supporting new secondary school models that help students develop the full range of competencies necessary for successful transitions to college and career in today's global economy and society. These competencies can be developed through a variety of opportunities in a "wider learning ecosystem" comprised of organizations and institutions beyond the traditional high school walls. In October 2017, Somerville High School in partnership with the Center for Collaborative Education (CCE), were selected by the Barr Foundation to receive a two-year planning grant to embark on this transformational work of redesigning "where learning happens". Learn more about this initiative at: https://www.barrfoundation.org/blog/new-grants-support-11-schools-redesign-where-learning-happens.

Our Vision

We envision a high school model centered in a wider learning ecosystem. We envision a Somerville High School that puts students at the center of a flexible and evolving learning experience that builds on students' creativity, individuality, and curiosity through adaptable pathways that connect students to the real world as a standard practice and not as an add-on. One where learning experiences outside the traditional classroom are at the core of every students' personalized learning plan, and where students are the lead agents of a learning experience that allows them to learn with purpose and empowers them to address real-world problems working in collaboration with teachers, practitioners, and community partners.

Questions & Comments: The information below outlines the planning process of this "Envisioning the Future of SHS" effort. Please complete this Community Input form to share your thoughts and ideas, or to indicate your interest in becoming part of Somerville High School's wider learning ecosystem.

Planning Team

This work was overseen by a planning team comprised of a representative and active group of stakeholders. The Planning Team's charge was to:

  • oversee the entire planning process for the Barr Foundation Wider Learning Ecosystem grant, including supporting the work of four subcommittees and gathering input from students, parents, and the community;
  • develop a design plan for integrating substantial "beyond the classroom learning" experiences for every SHS student for consideration by the Superintendent and School Committee by spring of 2019;
  • once the plan is approved, oversee preparation for implementation roll-out starting in September 2019.

The Planning Team met twice per month for 1-1/2 to 2 hours (usually from 7:30-9:00 a.m.) at the modular classrooms @ Somerville High School.

Planning Team Members:

Agnes Gallant, SHS Faculty/Staff Aimee Sprung, Microsoft Chad Mazza, SPS
Anna Doherty, SomerPromise Rocco Diricco and Karen O'Hagan, Tufts Ben Sommer, OSPCD
Brenda LeBlanc, SHS Faculty/Staff Carlos Contreras, SHS Faculty/Staff Chanel Kiett-Williams, Bunker Hill CC
Charles Jabour, SHS Faculty/Staff Dan French, CCE Laura Tota, CCE
Emily Blitz, SHS Faculty/Staff Jackie Lawrence, STA Janine Lotti, Parent
Jodi Remington, SHS Faculty/Staff Laura Tota, CCE Leo DeSimone, SHS Associate Headmaster
Margaret dePasquale Green, NWFC Matt Meservey, SHS Faculty/Staff Melanie Kessler, SPS
Rachel Ziulkowski, SHS Faculty/Staff Sebastian LaGambina, SHS Headmaster Susan Leyva, Parent
Susana H. Morgan, SPS Traci Small, SHS Faculty/Staff Zachary Shufran, SHS Faculty/Staff


Four subcommittees (Personalization, Out-of-School Learning, Performance Based Assessments, Scheduling) guided the work throughout the planning process and are guiding implementation efforts. The charge of each subcomittee during the planning process was to:

  • research the subcommittee’s focus area, using CCE as a resource;
  • visit at least one other school to gain different perspectives and gather data;
  • implement ways in which to gain student input on subcommittee's recommendations;
  • develop a proposed set of recommendations for the Planning Team on implementation roll-out beginning in September 2019;
  • propose one recommendation to field test in the 2018-2019 school year;
  • ensure that all recommendations apply to and work for all students.

Beyond the Classroom Learning Subcommittee (previously called the Out-of-School Learning Subcommittee):

Exploring ways in which to extend learning outside of the school walls or the traditional classroom experience, and make experiential learning a core part of every students' educational journey. Learn more about this committee's work.

Personalization Subcommittee:

Personalizing the learning experience for every student to match their interests and needs. Learn more about this committee's work.

Performance-Based Assessments Subcommittee:

Development of a competency-based model that offers multiple flexible pathways to graduation. Learn more about this committee's work.

Scheduling Subcommittee:

Reshaping the schedule to support beyond the classroom learning, multiple pathways to graduation, personalization, and increased faculty common planning time. Learn more about this committee's work.


The Wider Learning Ecosystem Learning Community

Teams of representatives (about 6 members/team) from each of the 11 Wider Learning Ecosystem (WLE) grantees meet at various times throughout the year to learn from each other; learn about each other's vision, approaches and anticipated challenges; develop new relationships by discussing approaches and brainstorming strategies to address common challenges; visit schools taking an innovative approach to teaching and learning; and to learn from experts and reflect on how to build equitable, inclusive redesign processes that effectively engage all relevant stakeholders. These two-day convenings are co-facilitated by the Barr Foundation and The Learning Agenda.

  • Geographic Representation of WLE Grantees
  • First Convening: January 29-30, 2018, Le Meridien Hotel in Cambridge MA
  • Second Convening: May 8-9, 2018, Omni New Haven at Yale in New Haven CT
  • Third Convening: October 22-23, 2018, Hilton Burlington in Burlington VT
  • Fourth Convening: May 2-3, 2019, Westin Portland Harborview in Portland ME
  • Fifth Convening: October 3-4, 2019, Marriot Hartford Downtown in Hartford/Manchester CT
  • Next Convening: May 7-8, 2020 in Manchester NH

Resources to Explore