Massachusetts has some of the best public schools in the nation. It also has some of the largest achievement gaps. And despite its elite educational institutions and reputation for high-tech innovation, Massachusetts doesn’t always succeed in teaching students what they need to know to thrive and compete in a high-tech economy. Our top five K-12 education stories of 2018 explored education policies’ impact on the state and local cities and towns and look at the effects of these policies on teachers, families, and students.
￼One of Mayor Marty Walsh’s signature initiatives, known as BuildBPS, aims to renovate and upgrade Boston public school buildings. The $1 billion school modernization plan calls for building new schools, and consolidating and closing others. In December, Boston’s School Committee voted to close two West Roxbury high schools, West Roxbury Academy and Urban Science Academy. This story takes a look at the impact of these closures on one student.
"[Urban Science Academy is] the best school, because I feel safe there. … This is the first school that's accepted me for who I am."Joshua Ventner
In an interview with WGBH News in October, Mayor Walsh compared Boston’s public schools to a business, and not favorably: “If we were a business, someone would shut us down because it doesn't work,” he said.
It’s an approach that some feel places plans over people.
"I know people are going to question the moves . … If they want every school to be good, then they have to allow us to do the very difficult decisions in order to make this district work."Mayor Marty Walsh
2018’s gubernatorial election offered candidates the opportunity to present a vision to make the state’s public schools work better for every student. Did they? Not really, k-12 managing editor Bianca Vazquez Toness reports:
Massachusetts has some of the best public schools in the country, but they're not working for everyone. The state also has some of the country's biggest achievement gaps for Latino students and poor children. Neither candidate for governor — incumbent Charlie Baker or his Democratic challenger Jay Gonzalez — has a plan that will fix persistent disparities in the state's public schools.
The Independent School Entrance Exam, or ISEE, is used as the entrance exam for Boston Latin Academy and the city's two other exam schools. But the test maker cannot say whether or not the test accurately predicts high school performance for students of color. Students of color make up more than 80 percent of Boston Public Schools’ enrollment.
The district's use of the ISEE as the entrance test for the Boston exam schools has faced criticism over the last few weeks after a Harvard Rappaport Institute report showed basing exam school admissions on the MCAS would increase black and Hispanic enrollment at Boston Latin School by 50 percent.
Few other states’ economies and job markets are as defined by high-tech jobs as Massachusetts’. But are Massachusetts schools doing a good job at keeping up with what kids need to know to prepare themselves for an increasingly high-tech world?
"Are there hundreds of computer science high school teachers out there today? No."Mark Racine, Chief Information Officer for Boston Public Schools