Why was Epiphany founded, and when? Epiphany School was founded in 1997 by a coalition of educators, Episcopal clergy, and community activists in response to a critical need for a high quality, tuition-free middle school targeting economically disadvantaged families in the Boston area. In 1998, Epiphany opened its doors to 41 fifth and sixth grade students in a space donated by the Parish of All Saints in Dorchester. In 1999, with help from St. Michael’s in Milton we added 21 new 5th graders and, in September 2000, this time with help from the Sisters of St. Joseph, we reached full capacity with students in all four grades (5-8). On December 18, 2001, we moved from those various donated spaces into our permanent Schoolhouse located at 154 Centre Street in Dorchester, abutting the Shawmut T-station — a momentous achievement in our school’s short history.
What is Epiphany’s admissions policy? Epiphany targets children from economically-disadvantaged families in Boston. Children considered for admission to Epiphany must be entering the 5th grade, reside in the City of Boston, and qualify for the federal free/reduced fee lunch program. In addition, parents or guardians must be prepared to work 2 hours per week at Epiphany in lieu of paying tuition and must believe that a 12-hour school day is appropriate for their child. All parents sign a covenant agreeing to their attendance at, support of, and commitment to the school. Epiphany currently uses a lottery system to admit the majority of its students. 20% of the new spots in the school each year are reserved for referrals from the Massachusetts Department of Children & Families (DCF). Siblings of current or past students are usually automatically admitted because we work in close partnership with families.
Families with students currently well served by Individualized Education Plans (IEP under Chapter 766 in the public schools) should consider whether Epiphany will serve their children well, although an IEP alone does not disqualify a student for admission.
Our admissions policy ensures that we serve students with a wide range of skills and capacities. Indeed, many of Epiphany’s students have not done well in their previous schools and, by conventional measures and assumptions, are at high risk of academic failure, substance abuse, teen pregnancy, and delinquency. In Epiphany’s small and structured environment, however, students demonstrate remarkable growth, both academically and personally. In many ways, students who have previously struggled in school have more to gain from our unique program than students who have done well. Our goal is to help each student reach his or her full potential.
Epiphany’s student body is 81% Black (African-American, Cape Verdean, Haitian, and West Indian), 15% Latino (Puerto Rican, Dominican, Venezuelan, Colombian), 1% Asian (Indian), 1% Caucasian, 1% Native American and 1% Other-Multi-racial.
What are the main components of Epiphany’s program? The heart of Epiphany’s program is a strong academic program. Epiphany has a clearly articulated core curriculum with detailed academic and social benchmarks for each grade. Students who are unable to meet minimum benchmark requirements may be asked to repeat a grade or participate in special summer programming. Alternatively, students who are consistently unable to reach benchmark requirements are given defined Independent Learning Plans (ILPs). In addition, we serve 3 meals and 2 snacks per day, provide after-school and summer programming, and help families access vitally-needed health, prevention, and social services. Epiphany is open 12 hours a day, 11 months a year and strives to support the entire family as the best way to serve each child. Students are taught in small classes and receive individualized attention. A heavy emphasis on reading and writing helps students achieve across the board, and each student receives 45 minutes daily of both Reading and Writing. Other subjects include Math, Science, Social Studies, Religion, Music, and Art. The curriculum includes a wide-range of hands-on and participatory learning projects such as school-wide debates, oral presentations, and interdisciplinary learning. Our schedule includes a structured two-hour evening study four nights a week with daily homework to help teach effective study habits.
Academics & Daily School Life
What is “full-service” programming, and why does Epiphany offer it? As a “full-service school,” Epiphany combines a rigorous academic program with personal supports and the delivery of vitally-needed health, prevention, and social services for each student. Through collaborative programming with a large number of established community agencies, the school helps economically-disadvantaged children and their families address their pressing needs. For example, we provide three meals and two snacks daily to each student, fit students for new glasses, arrange for psychologists in private practice to meet with students, help families access support from social service agencies, assist parents looking for work or housing, and much more. For example, on a routine basis:
How does Epiphany know that its programming is working? We measure our success by our students’ successes. To know where our strengths are and where we need to improve, we administer a variety of assessments at regular intervals, beginning as soon as students are accepted to Epiphany with the QRI and the Stanford 10. These tests help us determine the best academic placement for each student and other tests then assess the student’s progress, although we do not teach to any one test or assessment. On average our recent graduates have seen 5 grade levels of improvement on the Stanford 10 over their four years at Epiphany.
We continue to track our students’ progress after graduation through our Graduate Support Program. 100% of Epiphany’s graduates continue their educations every year in independent, parochial, charter, and pilot schools, or at the city’s elite exam schools. Furthermore, as of June 2012, 88% of Epiphany’s graduates have graduated from high school or earned a GED. By contrast, the three public high schools near Epiphany have a much lower average graduation rate of 47%, and this rate of 47% does not include 8th graders who drop out between middle and high school.
According to a 2010 study by the Postsecondary Education Opportunity National Research Organization, nationally only 8.3% of low-income students graduate college by age 24. Epiphany’s statistics are notably higher. Out of those Epiphany graduates who are eligible to enroll in post-secondary education, 73% have enrolled in post-secondary programs, and out of the first five graduating classes 62% have graduated from college. Although our graduates are graduating at rates 8 times the national average of 8.3% for this population, we are not complacent. Our goal is to have many more of our graduates in this position.
What is the background of Epiphany’s teaching staff? Our Master Teachers design and teach the curriculum, and all have previous teaching experience. They are paid modest but competitive salaries and are given the resources they need both to teach effectively and also to continue their professional education. They also oversee and mentor our Teaching Fellows. Epiphany’s Teaching Fellows are typically recent college graduates, ideally with experience in education and from backgrounds similar to our students, and we are proud that each year several are themselves Epiphany graduates. These Teaching Fellows commit to a year or more of service in exchange for room, board, healthcare, and a modest monthly stipend. Most are also eligible for Americorps support, and many are able to have college loans deferred or even sometimes forgiven. Fellows teach classes, coach sports, run extracurricular activities, supervise study hall, mentor students, and more.
Faculty & Staff
Teaching Fellows Program
Does Epiphany intend to expand the middle school beyond 90 students? No. We believe that our model works. It is large enough to get momentum in classes, and small enough to facilitate our mission “to work in close partnership with families.” As a small school, Epiphany finds itself on the forefront of a growing educational movement. Nationwide, schools are replicating this model of small classes, long hours, extended school years, and cohesively-integrated support outside the classroom. The Epiphany model specifically is also being replicated around the country, with schools as nearby as Lawrence, MA and as far away as Tucson, AZ.
What does it mean that Epiphany is a school “that never gives up on a child?” It means that Epiphany does not use expulsion as part of its regular disciplinary discussions. Unless a student threatens the safety of others, there is almost no way students will be kicked out of Epiphany. Students may be required to participate in individualize programs for much of the day and/or work with a tutor; they may be required to attend therapy sessions or may be removed from the afternoon program; their parents may have to meet with the Principal again and again; they may be suspended repeatedly, but they will never be expelled unless they are a threat to their own safety or that of others. We also provide abiding support to our graduates through our Graduate Support Program, from informal advice and guidance to more formal SAT prep classes, financial aid and college application workshops, and job support.
What happens to Epiphany students after they graduate? Graduates receive abiding support from Epiphany long after graduation through our Graduate Support Program (GSP). GSP serves more than 240 young adults and ranges from the informal –e.g., offering “life advice” and academic help after school– to the more formal – e.g., SAT prep classes and financial aid workshops. GSP assists with college applications and financial aid workshops, helps graduates find after-school and summer jobs, ensures that graduates know about helpful programs, and facilitates contact among graduates through an active online community and with reunions. In addition, graduates often return to Epiphany in the afternoons and evenings to attend dinner, to receive tutoring, and maybe to play a little basketball. Finally, Epiphany helps to cover unanticipated but necessary costs that may arise for our graduates, including books and supplies, by awarding $125,000 in “last-dollar” scholarships to graduates attending tuition-charging high school.
100% of Epiphany’s graduates continue their educations every year in independent, parochial, charter, and pilot schools, or at the city’s elite exam schools. Furthermore, as of June 2012, 88% of Epiphany’s graduates have graduated from high school or earned a GED.
Out of those Epiphany graduates who are eligible to enroll in post-secondary education, 73% have enrolled in post-secondary programs, and out of the first five graduating classes 62% have graduated from college – more than 8 times the national average for economically-disadvantaged students.
Graduate Support Program
What does it mean that Epiphany is an independent school? As an independent school, Epiphany has tremendous flexibility in serving students, ensuring that each child receives the programming that will best ensure his or her learning and development. It also means that we receive almost no federal, state, or local funding. Instead, Epiphany relies on private, foundation, and corporate support. We have found the broad accountability inherent in this funding serves our students well.
What does it mean that Epiphany is a religious school? Epiphany admits students of all faiths. Historically, less than 5% of the students have been Episcopalians at any one time, and we currently enroll students who are Roman Catholic, Protestant, Muslim, and others whose families do not participate in any organized religion. Epiphany does not proselytize, but Epiphany is an Episcopal school that bears witness to the idea that we find God in and through each other. Epiphany is about action inspired by faith. We believe that every child is sacred, and that every child has a soul. We try to make sure that all children receive the services and support they need and that all children realize their God-given potential to lead and support those around them.
What role does the Episcopal Church play in the school? Epiphany is an independent school and is not funded or controlled by the church, but we receive terrific financial support from churches, outreach groups, and individual parishioners in the Boston area and surrounding communities. We are fortunate that many of our volunteers come from area churches to donate their time by serving food and tutoring. In terms of daily life and the student experience, we say grace before all meals, have a weekly chapel service, and all-school, student led prayer on Fridays. In addition, students take a religion class that explores Christianity and other major religions of the world. Participation by students in religious activities is encouraged, but alternative programming is available for students whose families choose for them not to participate.
What is the cost-per-student of an education at Epiphany? Epiphany School provides a cohesively-integrated education to every student. This education not only includes the regular school day but also after-school programming, summer education, and the vital social services that our students need to be healthy and whole. All together, this integrated education costs approximately $25,000 per year, per student.
What can I do to help? In order to exist as an independent, tuition-free school, Epiphany depends on the loyal support of so many individuals. Please consider giving what you can. Epiphany is an approved 501(c)3 organization and all donations are fully tax deductible. The school is also prepared to receive stock gifts, which can be an attractive option for potential donors who currently hold long-term appreciated securities. We would also welcome the opportunity to discuss how, if appropriate, Epiphany might fit into your estate planning. For any questions on how to best donate to Epiphany, please contact Claire Whitehouse by phone at 617-326-0425 x234 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Epiphany also depends on the loyal support of its volunteers. Volunteers are needed to help tutor students, work in the kitchen, and contribute to the various teams and committees that make the school work. To learn more about volunteer opportunities, please contact Claire Whitehouse, Development Assistant, by phone at 617-326-0425 x208 or by email at email@example.com.