William E. Carter School
The William E. Carter School is a Boston public school located in lower Roxbury and South End; however, it is very different from most other schools within its district. One of the most prominent differences is that students of the Carter School are ages 12-22 and are faced with various disabilities. Although the school has undergone many changes since its founding in 1971, its primary goal remains the same: To help students learn how to live more independently and manage their disabilities.
Backstory and Context
The William E. Carter School was founded in 1971— although back then it was called the William E. Carter Development Center— meaning it was not formally regarded as a school. Nearly forty years following the institution’s founding, students’ parents successfully unionized to fight for the right to officially become the Carter School. This was pivotal for the institution because the children were attending classes all day, and therefore deserved the right to be respected as students. Like the other Boston Public Schools, the Carter School follows a typical bell schedule: The school day begins at 9:25am and ends at 3:35pm. Other than the bell schedule, though, the Carter School is very different from Boston’s other public schools.
The Carter School differentiates itself from most other public schools in the area through utilizing data driven instruction. Each day, the school’s staff members are responsible for “daily data collection for all lessons and learning programs that target each student’s goals and benchmarks” (Williamecarterschool.org). This unique teaching style is especially beneficial for the instruction of students with disabilities because it tracks students’ progress and helps instructors evaluate the success of their teaching methods. It is important to note that at the Carter School each student has their own individual goals; it is not a competitive environment.
Unlike many other Boston public schools, the Carter School has a student to faculty ratio of 5:3. This is because each classroom has one teacher and two assistants. This ratio is especially important because one of the main reasons why students with disabilities are not as likely to thrive in normal public schools is because they do not receive the one-on-one assistance that they require. Additionally, the Carter School offers unique school features such as: artistic therapy, aquatic therapy, professional development, a sensory garden (which is pictured above), and family support resources. All of these programs are demonstrative of the Carter School’s dedication towards their students in all aspects of life— not just in the classroom.
In addition, the school focuses on improving students’ participation in their “activities of daily living.” Specifically, the school seeks to encourage its students to increase their participation in their activities of daily life because the school acknowledges how important this can be in terms of quality of life. Much of the teaching of these activities occurs naturally throughout the day and does not require a formal lesson. This is because each student varies in the way that he or she feels comfortable or capable of participating in such activities. The Carter School goes beyond the classroom and works with families to help them train their children to do these activities at home. The goal is progress towards independence and feeling comfortable carrying out life’s many essential daily tasks.
The Carter School is culturally significant within the context of civil rights and education because for the past 48 years, it has offered Boston’s disabled youth a place to learn and grow. Prior to the opening of the William E. Carter Development Center, Boston’s many disabled residents had no place to receive free one-on-one assistance and therapy. Even after the institution was founded, the facilities were not entirely accessible for the disabled—fortunately, though, the school’s new facilities are provided by the Department of Developmental Services and the faculty are hired by Boston Public Schools. This is evidence that it was not until recently that disabled populations in Boston have begun to receive the resources and representation that they are entitled to, and the Carter School is just the first milestone.
"Williame Carter School." Williame Carter School » Family Support & Resources. Accessed February 28, 2019. http://www.williamecarterschool.org/.
"Contact." Boston Public Schools / Boston Public Schools Homepage. 2019. Accessed February 28, 2019. https://www.bostonpublicschools.org/school/carter-development-center.
Macdonald, Megan, and Samuel W. Logan. "Editorial: Health and Children with Disabilities." Frontiers in Public Health 5 (2017). doi:10.3389/fpubh.2017.00175.