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Francis W. Parker Charter Essential School

Francis W. Parker Charter Essential School
FW Parker School.JPG
49 Antietam St.
Devens, Massachusetts
TypeCharter school
Number of students379
Color(s)Green, white and black             [2]
AthleticsBaseball, basketball, cross country, soccer, softball, track and field

The Francis W. Parker Charter Essential School (usually referred to as the Parker Charter School by the public, or simply Parker by students) is a public [4] charter school in Devens, Massachusetts that serves students in grades 7 to 12. It was established in 1995 under the Massachusetts Education Reform Act of 1993, and serves about 400 students from 40 surrounding towns in north central Massachusetts, including Ayer, Shirley, Littleton, Leominster, Lunenburg, and Worcester.[5] As a member of the Coalition of Essential Schools, a leading organization for education reform, Parker is known for its nontraditional educational philosophy. The school takes its name from Francis Wayland Parker, a 19th-century pioneer of the progressive school movement.


Parker was one of the first charter schools created under the Massachusetts Education Reform Act of 1993.[5] Started by area parents and teachers, it received its charter on March 15, 1994,[6] opening for the 1995–1996 school year as an Essential School dedicated to the principles of the Coalition of Essential Schools.[6][7] CES founder Ted Sizer was involved in its founding, and he served as co-principal with his wife Nancy in the 1998–1999 school year. Every five years the school is reviewed by the state to see whether the school's charter should be renewed. Parker's charter was renewed in 2014. In 1999, the New England Association of Schools and Colleges selected Parker as a "candidate member school" for accreditation, and it was accredited in 2002.[8]

Parker also is home to the Regional Teachers center (renamed the Theodore R. Sizer Teachers Center on the school's tenth anniversary in 2005). Teachers provide professional help to other teachers, give workshops, and take part in educational conferences. [9] The New Teachers Collaborative is a program that allows beginning teachers to earn their teacher certification in one school year. In addition to Parker, NTC places teachers at Innovation Academy Charter School in Chelmsford, Massachusetts.[10]

As with all Commonwealth Charter Schools in Massachusetts, Parker receives its funding from the local aid accounts of its students' sending school districts. Because Massachusetts charter schools cannot receive state or local funding for facilities acquirement or improvement, Parker has had to find other solutions to its housing issues. From its opening in 1995 to 2000, Parker was located in a former Army spy-training building leased from MassDevelopment, a semi-private base redevelopment authority.[9] While this facility provided sufficient space, it lacked windows, a cafeteria, or a gym. In 2000, the school moved to its current residence, a 1950s-era elementary school, also leased from MassDevelopment, until it was acquired in August 2007.[11]


Parker employed about 44 full-time equivalent teachers in the 2006–2007 school year; the average class size is 15 students and the student to teacher ratio is 8.3 to 1.[10] Parker teachers tend to be young, and the school's relationship with the Harvard Graduate School of Education means that many young teachers start at Parker to intern and decide to stay. The teachers are also well-educated; as of 2006, about two-thirds of the school's faculty held advanced degrees,[5] and 95.2% were designated Highly Qualified Teachers according to the No Child Left Behind Act.[12] However, as of 2008, only 65.8% are licensed in their teaching assignment, below the state average.[1]

On average over the past 10 years, 16% of teachers (about 9 out of 56 to 60 each year) have not returned annually, which is less than the 20% national average for public schools.[13] The average years of service for teachers at Parker is 4.5 years, with an average teaching experience of 6.9 years.[10] Some leave to take on leadership roles in other essential schools elsewhere in the country. Though Parker spends a greater percentage of its total funds on its teachers than any school in the state,[citation needed] its teachers are paid less than teachers at other local public schools, in part due to the lack of a teachers' union. This is usually perceived as being a reason for high teacher turnover, but according to a report by former principal Teri Schrader, the vast majority of teacher departures being for other reasons.[13]


  • James Nehring (1996–1998)
  • Theodore and Nancy Sizer (1998–1999)
  • Gregg Sinner (1999–2001)
  • Teriann Schrader (2001–2010)
  • Diane Kruse (Interim Principal 2010-2011)
  • Todd Sumner (2011–Present)

Notable faculty

  • Suzy Becker (born 1962), author, entrepreneur, and social activist

Extracurricular activities

Parker has numerous clubs and activities. There is a student jazz band and there have several student bands over the years, most notably The Demons of Stupidity, Schmendrique, Federal Meat Inspection, and Crevice. Every year Parker had multiple teams compete in CoMap a 36-hour math competition. In 2016 a CyberPatriot team was approved. Several times a year, students and teachers showcase their music and poetry skills at Café Wednesday. There are usually about two play productions a year. Parker also has a Destination ImagiNation team; a Parker team went to the Global Finals in 2005 and 2006. Other groups include a Mock Trial team that made it to the state finals in 2002 and state semi finals in 2010. A rocket club reached the 2006 and 2007 national finals of the Team America Rocketry Challenge.[14] In the past, there was a math team that participated in the Worcester County Mathematics League.


Despite Ted Sizer's objection to the overemphasis of the role of sports in public high schools, athletics have become an important part of the Parker identity over time.[15] The school now fields teams in cross country, track and field, soccer, basketball, baseball, and softball and is a member of the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association. About half of the student body participates in at least one sport.[16]


  1. ^ a b Parker's Massachusetts Department of Education Profile
  2. ^ The colors were initially forest green and white; black was added a few years ago.
  3. ^ []
  4. ^ US Charter Schools Archived 2007-06-01 at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^ a b c "Who Are We? - Parker School official website". Archived from the original on December 10, 2006.
  6. ^ a b "Parker School Fact Sheet". Archived from the original on October 16, 2005.
  7. ^ "Francis W. Parker Charter Essential School CES Profile". Archived from the original on September 30, 2006.
  8. ^ "NEASC list of accredited schools". Archived from the original on 2008-06-24. Retrieved 2008-07-06.
  9. ^ a b The Parker Way, Winter 2007 Archived April 29, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  10. ^ a b c Parker School 2006–2007 Annual Report. Archived August 27, 2010, at the Wayback Machine
  11. ^ The Parker Way, Fall 2007. Archived June 8, 2011, at the Wayback Machine
  12. ^ "Parker School 2005–2006 Annual Report" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on September 27, 2007.
  13. ^ a b Parker Board of Trustees February 6, 2007 meeting minutes Archived September 27, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  14. ^ Parker's rocket scientists - Rocketry Planet
  15. ^ Parker programs flourish. Worcester Telegram and Gazette. October 6, 2007.
  16. ^ "A school grows up, learning books aren't enough". The Boston Globe. 2007-02-04.

Further reading

External links