Mission Hill School

Jamaica Plain, MA

"Without Art We Are Diminished"

The superior guiding social, emotional and academic principles and practices at Mission Hill are clearly reflected in student behavior, teachers’ professionalism, and parent involvement. Together these factors ensure that every student at the school is engaged, nurtured, and loved each day. Three specific features of Mission Hill make the school distinctive:

The first distinctive element is founder Deborah Meier’s abiding impact leading to the willingness of current faculty and principal to continue following her lead. A commitment to succession planning serves as a means of maintaining continuity and commitment to the ideals upon which Mission Hill was founded. Through an experientially focused year-long principal development program, several Mission Hill teachers per year participated in the Principal Residency Program which developed visionary principals throughout Boston, Rhode Island, and New Hampshire. Still today, upwards of 50% of the Mission Hill staff are certified as school principals.

A second distinctive element central to teaching and learning at Mission Hill School is an integrated curriculum that attends to the academic, intellectual, artistic, social, emotional, and civic growth of each student. At MH, school-wide themes are woven into social studies, literacy, science and the arts. Learning involves integration of the arts, physical movement, and learning in nature and the community as well as in the classroom. As students engage in thematic units, they are taught to pose and answer questions using Habits of Mind and Habits of Work, which are developed in the process of gathering appropriate knowledge and skill in school and out.

The third distinctive element is the use of the school’s formal Graduation Portfolio Standards as the primary means of assessment. Staff reviews, interviews, portfolios, reports and family conferences create an on-going assessment system. Twice a year the school records and evaluates all students in literacy and numeracy, as the primary means of noting growth. The scoring system is shared (and subject to review) with students, their families and external authorities. While the school administers standardized norm-referenced tests where required and prepares students to understand how to do their best with such tools, it does not build its own assessment system on the basis of these scores.

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Deborah Meier, founder of Mission Hill School (seated) with (left to right), Jenerra Williams, Ayla Gavins, and Geralyn Bywater.

Extraordinarily skilled teachers, resulting in excellent learning outcomes, as shown in student portfolios and standard assessments

Strong commitment to shared governance: student voice, teacher leadership and decision-making, parent and community involvement

Assessment built around the school’s formal Graduation Portfolio Standards

Integrated curriculum taught through school wide themes

Fully inclusive multi-age classrooms

A focus on experiential learning