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In June of 2020, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh declared racism in the city a“public health crisis.” Racism has had long standing impacts on the academic, socioemotional, and economic outcomes of BPS students and families for many decades. Research scholar Ibram X. Kendi (2019) posited that in order to dismantle racist policies and practices in American public-school education, a move toward becoming anti-racist is necessary. His argument suggested that the opposite of white supremacist practices is anti-racism, which includes cutting to the root of racist policies that perpetuate systematic inequities disproportionately impacting Black and Brown communities.

Excellence For All (EFA) is a Boston Public School initiative specifically developed to address the need for equitable access and opportunity for student learning, and “build capacity and provide the vision, innovation, and supports the district and its individual schools need to foster opportunities for [Black, Latinx, emergent bilinguals, students with disabilities, and low socioeconomic status students] to flourish and close gaps in proficiency across all areas of their education” (EFA, 2019). EFA is an attempt by BPS to increase access for historically marginalized students formerly underserved in BPS Advanced Work Courses (AWC) and other academic enrichment opportunities to best prepare them for optimal academic and
socioemotional outcomes. 

Our report provides a primarily qualitative analysis of fidelity and quality of support for student learning in the implementation of the EFA initiative in 16 Boston Public Schools serving 4-6th grade students.

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Table of Contents

Executive Summary

Our report provides a primarily qualitative analysis of fidelity and quality of support for student learning in the implementation of the EFA initiative in 16 Boston Public Schools serving 4-6th grade students.

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Excellence for All (EFA) is a Boston Public School (BPS) district initiative to address the need for equitable access and opportunity for student learning.

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Theoretical Frameworks and Literature Review

We root our data collection, analysis, and findings in theories on de-tracking, implementation of major educational reforms, and Critical Race Theory.

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This evaluation was designed to examine the facilitators and barriers of EFA implementation. As such, we relied heavily on qualitative methods.

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Key findings presented in this section emerged from our analysis of individual and focus group interviews. Findings are presented thematically in two sections we label as highlights and challenges.

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Already desiring more rigorous curriculum and pedagogy for all students, EFA gave schools the additional resources needed to turn this vision into a reality.

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These recommendations support ways EFA can best serve BPS students through a culturally responsive and sustaining lens.

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This report outlines clear guidelines to improve EFA implementation across sites as well as target efforts to meet the needs of historically marginalized students.

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References for Excellence For All Report

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Qualitative data was collected by four highly trained researchers. NYU Metro Center worked with BPS to identify four case study schools, and one researcher was assigned to each of the selected schools.

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The research team would like to thank each of the individuals who took their time to help with this study. This includes EFA coaches, school administrators, teachers, and parents. With the support of these stakeholders, we were able to learn the juju details needed to capture an overview of how students, teachers, and school communities have experienced the EFA initiative. We also want to acknowledge Regine Philippeaux, Colin Rose, as well the EFA Team and BPS Central Office for supporting this work.

About Metropolitan Center for Research on Equity and the Transformation of Schools

NYU Metro Center advances equity and excellence in education by connecting to legacies of justice work through critical inquiry and research, professional development and technical assistance, community action and collaboration. Born of the dream of achieving equity in public education, NYU Metro Center was founded in 1978 by NYU Professor LaMar P. Miller. Today, NYU Metro Center is nationally and internationally renowned for its work on educational equity and school improvement. It brings together scholars, educators, and innovators from diverse backgrounds to collaborate on a range of projects to strengthen and improve access, opportunity, and educational quality across varied settings, but particularly in striving communities.


Danielle M. Perry, PhD is a Senior Research Associate at the NYU Metro Center. Her research centers historically marginalized populations in urban communities and explores educational access and opportunity, parenting practices, and neighborhood effects.

Joanna Geller, PhD is the Assistant Director of Research at the NYU Metro Center. Her research focuses on how historically marginalized families and communities build power to create equitable conditions for learning.

Jordan Lawson, PhD is a statistical consultant, with over 5 years of experience working with organizations in industries ranging from education to technology. He designs and leads quantitative research studies that help organizations get useful, actionable insights from their data. Specifically, he specializes in quantitative program evaluation, causal inference and statistical programming. He earned his PhD in Measurement and Statistics from Boston College.

Mariette Ayala, PhD is a researcher in Urban Education, Leadership and Policy at the University of Massachusetts, Boston. Her research covers the academic achievement gap, accessibility of higher education, urban education policy, family engagement, communication technology and the digital divide.

Chris Buttimer, PhD is a postdoctoral researcher in MIT’s Teaching Systems Lab. His research covers online and blended learning spaces for educators to implement equity in their teaching. He lectures at Brown University and Salem State University, and is a former middle school English/ Language Arts teacher for Cambridge Public Schools.


David E. Kirkland, PhD, JD

Suggested Citation:

Perry, D.M., Geller, J., Lawson, J., Ayala, M., and Buttimer, C. (2020) An Evaluation of the BPS Excellence for All Initiative. Metropolitan Center for Research on Equity and the Transformation of Schools.