Boston Public Schools Partners with Goalbook to Design Instruction for ALL

Principal Sean Guthrie with students at Young Achievers Science and Mathematics Pilot School.
“Goalbook has become an important part of our lesson planning. We want teachers to use it as a tool to create lessons that increase rigor, accommodate more students, and ensure vertical alignment. Goalbook makes this a more efficient and accurate process.”
— Sean Guthrie, Principal at Young Achievers Science and Mathematics Pilot School, BPS

Summary of Impact

Challenge: Boston Public Schools set out to ensure educational equity across the district by ensuring all students have access to rigorous instruction. Educators requested additional resources and training to support them with delivering cognitively demanding tasks and with designing instruction using the Universal Design for Learning framework.

Partnership with Goalbook: Boston Public Schools partnered with Goalbook to provide instructional resources and to lead professional development.

  • Goalbook has empowered educators to increase rigor in classrooms through designing scaffolded instruction so that all students can access cognitively demanding tasks
  • Goalbook has supported educators with integrating the Universal Design for Learning framework into instructional practices so that educators can respond to the learning barriers of individual students

Increasing the Rigor at BPS

In 2016, Boston Public Schools (BPS) introduced Goalbook to eight school campuses. The primary focus for BPS was to address the challenge of increasing teachers’ ability to develop and engage their students in cognitively demanding tasks (CDTs). CDTs integrate cognitively complex skills into instruction to increase the level of rigor. This means increasing learning expectations for all students while providing support for each individual student.

The second challenge BPS wanted to address was helping teachers integrate the Universal Design for Learning (UDL) framework into instructional practices. This would allow educators to respond to the learning barriers of students and support rigorous learning activities in every classroom.

BPS educators engaged in Goalbook’s professional development that focused on designing rigorous instruction.

What makes Goalbook professional development unique?

The Goalbook team worked closely with district leaders to support the instructional practice of educators at eight school sites. During the school year, Goalbook led professional development wherein they worked alongside BPS teachers to make the research behind Universal Design for Learning actionable and equipped educators with greater skills to effectively deliver CDTs.

Goalbook’s approach to professional development promotes authentic learning experiences by allowing teachers to engage in hands-on, interactive, group activities that let them role play instructional practices with their functional teams. Facilitators guide educators through instructional case studies that use student profiles to push teachers to think about the best ways to support a range of student needs. The goal of every Goalbook-led professional learning experience is to empower educators to design instruction that addresses the unique learning barriers of each student.

During the trainings, BPS teachers were able take advantage of resources in Goalbook Pathways and practice incorporating them into their instructional design. After engaging in Goalbook’s workshops, teachers felt they were equipped with so many more resources to help them take on their major instructional initiatives at their classroom and school.

The “Can’t We All Just Get Along?” project in Goalbook Pathways is a rigorous project that integrates reading and writing standards with social and emotional learning.

Goalbook Pathways Resources Help Educators Deliver CDTs

At Thomas Edison K-8 School, the second grade team used Goalbook Pathways resources to incorporate a cognitively demanding task into a social and emotional learning (SEL) unit. Over the course of a week, the second grade teachers integrated the Can’t We All Just Get Along? project into their instruction; the project taught students about conflict and conflict resolution.

After a series of read-alouds and group discussions, students created original stories depicting characters in conflict and how these characters found ways to resolve their differences. Students were able to answer who, what, where, when, why, and how questions to provide key details to their stories. This project addressed a developmentally appropriate and critical SEL topic while simultaneously incorporating four foundational reading and writing standards.

Students wrote their own narratives about conflict resolution.

This project is just one example of the fact that teachers weren’t simply printing handouts from the web. Rather, they were engaging in more rigorous and cognitively demanding instructional practices. Delivering an appropriately rigorous instructional program that keeps students engaged and optimizes planning time is at the heart of the craft of teaching. At Goalbook, we help all educators by devoting our time to creating resources and training that connect research-based practices to the realities of a classroom.

Goalbook Pathways Resources Help Educators Integrate UDL

Demonstration of scaffolded levels of support for the “Can’t We All Just Get Along?” project.
“I learned that even though administrators and content area experts know a great deal about UDL principles, using a tool like Goalbook as a resource is invaluable — because invariably we cannot know everything. I also learned that UDL by its very name, Universal, is for ALL students.”
— BPS School Leader

Universal Design for Learning is incorporated into every resource in Goalbook Pathways. Goalbook provides educators with implementation strategies that enable them to identify learning barriers and design targeted scaffolds to increase the level of rigor in their classrooms. Educators can access assessment models and printable resources that accompany each UDL-aligned instructional strategy. Every strategy includes implementation tips and several examples to support the teacher.

Expanding the Partnership and Impact

Throughout the school year, BPS educators realized two significant benefits of using Goalbook Pathways. The first was the positive impact the UDL-aligned resources had on student access to the grade-level standards across all eight schools. The second benefit was that teachers gained a deeper understanding of how to cultivate rigorous and engaging learning environments for all of their students. By the end of the pilot, 90% of teachers felt confident that they could implement cognitively demanding tasks, and 80% were confident that they could independently apply Universal Design for Learning principles in their classrooms.

The district’s partnership with Goalbook yielded results that impacted the instructional quality at the schools.

Principal Sean Guthrie reported that after less than a year of partnering with Goalbook, his teachers felt significantly more successful delivering cognitively demanding tasks and applying UDL principles to lesson design. This revealed that the basis for instructional efficacy is the intersection of research and action. Goalbook Pathways is designed to be the bridge that connects the two.

By partnering with Boston Public Schools, Goalbook set out to support teachers with implementing cognitively demanding tasks and leveraging UDL-aligned strategies in their classrooms. Goalbook’s professional development and numerous resources along with BPS educators’ unwavering commitment to the craft of teaching was a combination for success. The result was that teachers were able to continue improving instructional practice and making lasting change in their students’ lives.


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