Mission Hill School

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Mission Hill School
20 Child Street
Jamaica Plain, Boston, Massachusetts 02130
United States
School type Public pilot school
Founded 1997; 20 years ago (1997)
Founder Deborah Meier
School board MHS Governance Board
Authority Boston Public Schools
Principal Ayla Gavins
Grades PreK8
Gender Coeducational
Enrollment 220
Education system Progressive education
Democratic education
Medium of language English
Publication MHS News
Affiliations Coalition of Essential Schools

The Mission Hill School is a small preK–8 public pilot school within the Boston Public Schools, located in the Jamaica Plain neighborhood. Founded in 1997 by Deborah Meier, Elizabeth Knox Taylor, and colleagues, the school has received attention in books, articles, websites, national television, and a widely viewed film series for its pedagogical approaches and the academic success of its students, and because Meier has used the school as an example in many of her books, articles, and speeches.[1][2][3][4]

Unique aspects of the school include a diverse student body of approximately 220 students, democratic decision-making at the school and classroom levels, curricular focus on five democratic "Habits of Mind," school-wide thematic units, strong emphasis on the arts, and graduation from the school upon creating and defending robust portfolios of student work for a panel of evaluators.[5][6] Graduates of the school have been found to achieve academic success in high school and college at high rates.[3][7] Students are admitted to the school based on a lottery, within the choice system of the Boston Public Schools (with consideration given to whether families live within the "walk zone" and whether a sibling already attends the school, among other factors).[8] The Mission Hill School is a member of the Coalition of Essential Schools.[9][10] Ayla Gavins is the current principal of the school.[11]

In 2002, Meier published a book entitled In Schools We Trust, which included substantial attention to the Mission Hill School and also argued why the current climate of high-stakes testing makes running a school like Mission Hill much more difficult. She also wrote about the school in her books Will Standards Save Public Education? (2000) Keeping School: Letters to Families from Principals of Two Small Schools (with Ted and Nancy Sizer, 2005), Playing for Keeps: Life and Learning on a Public School Playground (with Beth Taylor and Brenda Engel, 2010), and Teaching in Themes: An Approach to Schoolwide Learning, Creating Community, and Differentiating Instruction (co-edited with Matthew Knoester, Katherine Clunis D'Andrea, and chapters written by current and former teachers at Mission Hill School, 2015). The school is the focus of a book by Matthew Knoester, entitled Democratic Education in Practice: Inside the Mission Hill School (2012).[12]

The school was controversially moved to a different location within Boston in 2012, despite resistance from the school community.[13][14]

The school has been featured on the PBS NewsHour multiple times, such as for a segment on teacher-led schools and for a piece on the importance of play in early childhood education.[15][16]


  1. ^ "Bridging Differences". Education Week. Retrieved 2013-05-06. 
  2. ^ In Schools We Trust. Beacon Press. 
  3. ^ a b Democratic Education in Practice: Inside the Mission Hill School. Teachers College Press. 
  4. ^ "A Year at Mission Hill film series". Retrieved 2013-05-06. 
  5. ^ "Heidi Lyne: Mission Hill School". Retrieved 2013-05-06. 
  6. ^ "Mission Hill School website". Retrieved 2013-05-06. 
  7. ^ Central Park East and its Graduates: Learning by Heart. Teachers College Press. 
  8. ^ "BPS: What are my School Choices?". Retrieved 2013-05-06. 
  9. ^ "CES Fall Forum 2012" (PDF). Retrieved 2013-05-13. 
  10. ^ "Coalition of Essential Schools: Mission Hill School". Retrieved 2013-05-13. 
  11. ^ "The Forum for Education and Democracy: Ayla Gavins". Retrieved 2013-05-13. 
  12. ^ "Beating the Odds. A Book Review of Democratic Education in Practice: Inside the Mission Hill School". Retrieved 2014-06-10. 
  13. ^ "Mission Hill School's fame is focus of a new book". Mission Hill Gazette. Retrieved 2013-05-13. 
  14. ^ "Letter: Mission Hill School should regain citywide status". Jamaica Plain Gazette. Retrieved 2013-05-06. 
  15. ^ "Would greater independence for teachers result in higher student performance?". PBS Newshour. Retrieved 2014-08-26. 
  16. ^ "Are young kids losing the brain-boosting benefits of playtime?". PBS Newshour. Retrieved 2016-07-13. 

Coordinates: 42°18′26.1″N 71°6′50.2″W / 42.307250°N 71.113944°W / 42.307250; -71.113944