Skip to Content
MIT News: Alumni profile

Schooling teachers in the realities of urban education

Jesse Solomon ’91

December 17, 2021
Jesse Solomon '91
Jesse Solomon '91
Courtesy Photo

When Jesse Solomon ’91 first started teaching at a middle school in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in the 1990s, he was overwhelmed. “I had 25 students working at eight different grade levels—some that were learning English, some that were on individual education plans,” he says. “I wasn’t prepared for that level of complexity.” Luckily, a veteran teacher was in the next room. “Every day before school, I just went and copied what she had written on her board. She would talk me through what she was going to do that day, and how to think about the whole curriculum,” he remembers. “That’s how I learned to be a teacher.”

In 2003, after teaching high school math for a decade, Solomon replicated that experience on a grander scale by cofounding the Boston Teacher Residency (BTR), which helps new teachers become effective urban educators. As executive director of the nonprofit Boston Plan for Excellence (BPE), Solomon oversees the program along with two charter schools in Roxbury, a densely populated, low-income Boston neighborhood that is highly diverse and multilingual. At the Dudley Neighborhood School (K–5) and the Dearborn STEM Academy (6–12), he leads a network of teachers, many of whom came up through BTR. “It’s not an option to be a lone wolf and be a great teacher,” Solomon says. “Building networks is a required part of the job.” 

Solomon grew up in Cambridge, where his mother, Vicki, was a school librarian and his father, Frank Solomon, was an MIT biology professor (now emeritus). At MIT, where he majored in math, an interest in urban studies inspired him to create a course on town-gown politics. Though he earned a master’s at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education, he found he needed more targeted training for teaching in urban schools. 

Modeled after a medical residency, BTR guides teachers from one-on-one interactions to small group lessons to whole classes. Mentors coach them as they practice, first with other adults and then with students. 

The goal is what Solomon calls “ambitious instruction” that is both “rigorous and engaging,” so students will enjoy learning and be challenged to do their best. BTR has trained more than 700 teachers, half of them teachers of color, and helped create a network of dozens of other teacher residency programs across the country. This year, Solomon watched Dearborn’s first students graduate from college. “Explicitly or not, our country teaches that not everyone is supposed to be smart,” Solomon says. “In BTR we aim to teach a mindset that holds everybody in class accountable for being brilliant—and we support teachers on the skills needed to push for that.”

Keep Reading

Most Popular

transplant surgery
transplant surgery

The gene-edited pig heart given to a dying patient was infected with a pig virus

The first transplant of a genetically-modified pig heart into a human may have ended prematurely because of a well-known—and avoidable—risk.

Muhammad bin Salman funds anti-aging research
Muhammad bin Salman funds anti-aging research

Saudi Arabia plans to spend $1 billion a year discovering treatments to slow aging

The oil kingdom fears that its population is aging at an accelerated rate and hopes to test drugs to reverse the problem. First up might be the diabetes drug metformin.

Yann LeCun
Yann LeCun

Yann LeCun has a bold new vision for the future of AI

One of the godfathers of deep learning pulls together old ideas to sketch out a fresh path for AI, but raises as many questions as he answers.

images created by Google Imagen
images created by Google Imagen

The dark secret behind those cute AI-generated animal images

Google Brain has revealed its own image-making AI, called Imagen. But don't expect to see anything that isn't wholesome.

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose WongIllustration by Rose Wong

Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review

Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.

Thank you for submitting your email!

Explore more newsletters

It looks like something went wrong.

We’re having trouble saving your preferences. Try refreshing this page and updating them one more time. If you continue to get this message, reach out to us at customer-service@technologyreview.com with a list of newsletters you’d like to receive.