A visit to the Boston Teachers Union School

I was so glad to finally visit the BTU Pilot School where my friends Betsy Drinan and Berta Berriz work. My first thought was that this school needs to give itself a “real” name; one that sings with the energy of the hallways! I kept thinking how much the students would love to engage in the process of naming their school. Regardless of the name, I was so impressed and joyful by what my friends have built at the BTU Pilot.

I loved weaving in and out of classrooms and seeing the energy and the focus of young people and teachers. I loved seeing Riana Good, a former BAA student intern, teaching the 4 year-olds. She was as expert with them as she was with high school students. I loved the squeak of those shiny wood floors. I loved how every hallway burst with student work and the values of the school. And, of course, I am thrilled that they have both an art and a music teacher!

I wondered though, about the Achievement Network testing program that the BTU School has adopted. I’ve heard a lot of schools are using it and wonder if it’s worth it, or if it’s just a time suck? Do teachers feel the value? I’d like to understand more about why they implemented it.  I’m always suspicious of company tests as opposed to tests that actual teachers construct and administer. Betsy mentioned a disconnect between the current curriculum and the test. How do teachers use the results and is this testing program pushing their practice forward, or holding them back?

Betsy, Berta, and I also sat down and discussed issues of governance and teacher evaluations. We also talked about strategic planning and the importance of starting the process early in a school’s life.

Mostly, I want to affirm what a terrific job they are doing at the BTU School. There is ALWAYS more work to do as educators and school leaders–it’s never-ending. But it’s important to be proud of what you’ve accomplished and to realize that there are many years to do all the rest. Go slowly. Deliberately. Don’t answer every district mandate and demand. You’ll drown and your school will suffer. Build the culture and the foundation. Ask the hard questions. Be open to critique.

Thank you to the BTU School for including me in a small way in your process. I’m proud to be your colleague and friend.

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2 Responses to “A visit to the Boston Teachers Union School”


  1. 1 Jeffrey Timberlake December 28, 2010 at 12:00 am

    Hi Linda,
    Thanks for your visit and including your experience @ the BTUS in your blog. This is my first year at the school and I too have been impressed with the work, dedication, inspiration and vision of the teachers. It’s visits like yours that we value – thank you for expressing your concerns and praises. Be assured we will continue asking the hard questions and continue honoring the shared leadership model that has put our school on the map.

    • 2 lindanathan January 6, 2011 at 1:24 pm

      Thanks so much for your response. I started this blog after my book “The Hardest Questions Aren’t on the Test” was published. Have you had a chance to read the book? I wonder if your faculty would find it useful? Mostly, I’m so inspired that there are teachers (and schools) willing to continue to push and ask hard questions. All the best, Linda


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