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BPS: State has largely finished review that could determine whether state tries to take over Boston schools

It's mostly over but the waiting now: The state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education has completed intensive audits and one-on-one interviews in Boston on the state of Boston Public Schools and is now compiling a report that could determine whether its board votes to take over Boston schools, a BPS official told city councilors today.

Drew Echolson, BPS deputy superintendent of academics told a City Council committee that, based on what he's been asked and seen, the state has zeroed in on three main areas that will determine whether Boston loses control over its own schools: Outcomes for special-education students, transportation and the state of BPS buildings.

DESE Superintendent Jeff Riley declined the chance to address the committee, saying it would be premature before the report is done.

Several councilors expressed opposition to a state takeover, saying that Mayor Wu should be given a chance to prove herself, that Gov. Baker is going to be leaving office soon and that the three districts the state is already running - Lawrence, Springfield and Southbridge - have failed to show any improvement at all under receivership.

Echolson and other BPS officials, in fact, said that based strictly on the sort of outcomes the state loves to measure - MCAS scores - Boston is doing far better than not just those three cities but other urban districts in the state.

And on other criteria, they said, Boston is not just a state leader but a national leader in urban education. They also pointed to investments, first announced by Mayor Walsh, to pour significant amounts of money into renovating Boston's school buildings, most of which went up before World War II, the addition of nurses and other support staff and to contract talks with bus drivers that might lead to more efficient ways to get students to and from school.

Councilor Kendra Lara (Jamaica Plain, West Roxbury) questioned why the state is reviewing a three-year "memorandum of understanding" it signed with BPS in 2020 now and wondered whether it's because the state only has a year after a formal "review" to take over a school district and the deadline for that after the review that led to the 2020 agreement had passed.

She noted the discussions come even as Boston tries to figure out what to do about a referendum last fall in which residents overwhelmingly voted to return to an elected school committee, something that might come to naught if the state appoints a receiver who would have the power to select a replacement for Brenda Cassellius, leaving as superintendent at the end of this school year.

"We should do everything in our power to ensure receivership is something that doesn't happen here," she said.

Councilor Ed Flynn (South Boston, South End, Chinatown, Downtown) said he wants to keep local control over local schools, but said he's willing to at least hear the state out, to see what issues BPS and the city might have missed - that they could then begin to address short of a state takeover.

Councilor Brian Worrell (Roxbury) acknowledged that BPS "isn't where we want it to be," but said nobody knows the system better than local folks.

Peter Piazza, a researcher for the Massachusetts Consortium for Innovative Education Assessment, a group that includes BPS, said he worked on a study of the "empowerment zone" the state set up in Springfield and said that after seven years, all it's done has been to "reduce student learning to test preparation," with schools dramatically expanding math and English classes at the expense of such classes as social studies and arts, which are not on the MCAS.

Jessica Tang, president of the Boston Teachers Union, blasted the way the state conducted its review, which included intensive "audits" at 42 individual BPS schools that meant pulling teachers out of classes where they were supposed to be helping students get ready for the MCAS and in general just creating "a climate of fear and anxiety."

But beyond that, she called receivership as practiced so far in Massachusetts "ineffective, anti democratic and, honestly, racist."

She said there are already two local examples of the failure of a state takeover at the Dever and Holland schools, where the schools now have trouble keeping teachers and parents are more likely to try to get their kids into parochial schools than want to send them there. She said the Dever has has five principals in seven years.

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Comments

Unbelievable. Everyone outside of Boston was able to see what a mess she made of things. Marty’s legacy will be the irreparable damage he caused with his superintendent hires.

It’s not a requirement to be a parent to be an effective mayor, but Walsh seemed totally divorced from the issue of educating our kids.

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What did she do that was so awful?

(Also, she’s competing with the domestic abuser that Marty appointed to lead BPD on his way out the door, so let’s be careful throwing around “Marty’s legacy” like there’s not a long list of low-lights to choose from.)

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Voting closed 28

If I'm not mistaken, the Mayor of the City of Boston does NOT "hire" the Superintendent of Boston Public Schools, but rather the Boston School Committee (the members of which ARE appointed by the Mayor, yes) controls the process.

https://www.boston.gov/searching-new-boston-public-schools-superintendent

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She didn't make the mess, however, she did nothing to clean it up. And let's not let the useless school committee go blameless either.

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“zeroed in on three main areas that will determine whether Boston loses control over its own schools: Outcomes for special-education students, transportation and the state of BPS buildings.”

Those are their concerns? So we’re good on student progress and outcomes? I mean, if it’s just special ed, transport and buildings then what the hell do you need a state takeover of the school system for?

(Meanwhile the state proves unhelpful in actually building schools: https://www.bostonglobe.com/2022/04/10/metro/school-construction-boston-...)

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the answer to the second and third issue are just "the state should provide more money for these things".

(and probably the same for the first one as well, honestly)

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Which traps schools in a vicious cycle of competition for students, in an era where overall enrollment is declining, and which necessarily and without intentionality or contemplation of consequences (nevermind equity) condemns a fraction of the schools each year to the death-cycle of under-enrollment and under-funding.

Or maybe allow Boston more nuanced taxation mechanisms that allow the city to capture a larger portion of the riches generated here but which are funding the schools in Acton and Hingham.

Or maybe provide an adequate social safety net so our students aren’t facing food and housing insecurity. It’s hard to learn when you don’t know where you’re gonna sleep next week. And that’s disruptive to the whole class.

Or just end the stupid MCAS, a glorified vocabulary test where English Language learning students do worse on “science” than on English because there’s no science involved, it’s just more esoteric reading questions.

By all means if the state has a solution for busing’s inordinate costs, it should share it. Dollar to a dime the state has no better solutions that I do: end residential segregation by massive upzoning. Minimum default zoning should be back bay’s brownstones, everywhere inside 128.

Or is the state gonna put the schools in receivership and *then* start studying the issues? Ugh.

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"Boston is not just a state leader but a national leader in urban education."

This is a remarkable indictment of America's public education system.

BPS is in a downward spiral, and hiring and firing superintendents are just two of the stops each time around the drain.

Just do it. Boston's schools could be the pride of the state, but not if it's run by the same interests that have been running it for the last thirty years.

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It doesn't sound like they're planning on changing much if the main issues they've found are with infrastructure and transportation.

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Whose comments?

This guy's comments?

Drew Echolson, BPS deputy superintendent of academics told a City Council committee that, based on what he's been asked and seen, the state has zeroed in on three main areas that will determine whether Boston loses control over its own schools: Outcomes for special-education students, transportation and the state of BPS buildings.

Or do you mean comments with more direct relevance than hearsay from someone whose job is on the line?

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Yes, the deputy superintendent is publicly lying about the contents of a report that will soon be publicly released in order to save his job for...the time it takes for the report to be released? What's the benefit here?

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The guy is spinning, like anybody else who doesn't want to have to look for a new job.

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Why is BPS in a downward spiral? I always see people unhappy with it on here, but never heard exactly what the problems are.

Not trolling. Have just been out of BPS for a while and honestly don't know what's wrong.

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The pandemic proved; public education has failed. Higher ed is not much better.

Bust the union; bring in more male teachers; de-emphasize non-STEM curricula; relegate social justice propaganda to religion class or after-school club status; fire the bottom 10% performing staff each year; eliminate a majority of non-teacher staff; require regular standardized testing to determine teaching efficacy; ban all staff from social media; ban cell phones in the schools; put video recorders in every classroom…

As a start.

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we should probably start paying the teachers less to right? your solutions sound like our education system should mimic prisons, and the people who volunteer their lives to become teachers should have even more hardships bestowed upon them ontop of having to buy their own supplies and teach some of the most difficult children in the state..

Definitely keep them form being on social media though... you dolt... lol

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Not sure what you mean by “…pay teachers less to right”; show me where I wrote that. Jettisoning the deadwood, and there is a lot of that, would imply same money for fewer people. Sounds like a raise.

Many people have volunteered to teach others; but generally we don’t characterize employees in public education, or any gainfully employed in paid positions, as volunteers.

Do you teach English, gramma?

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Do womenfolk spend too much time on twitter to teach our children properly?

P.S. I worked for GE, land of the sainted Jack Welch, and even they didn't fire the "bottom performing 10%" of staff every year. It was a bunch of garbage used to juice up his profile in Forbes.

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Are you the last guy at GE with the job responsibility to turn the lights out?

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Missing the point, misogynist.

Nobody lays off 10% of the workforce per year, but that greeeeat idea begins with Jack Welch.

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C’mon PeteY, surely you could find racism too along with misogyny.

You think a public institution that serves the entire population should be 90% of one affinity group, and that is optimal.

Wonder how you feel about integrating all genders in the military; eh?

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Either way this is a lose-lose situation for the students. The entire BPS system needs to be torn down and started anew. The more local the better. One superintendent for over 50,000 students is insane and will not solve anything, no matter how hard they try. We probably need something more like 3-5 people who are each in charge of smaller areas with less students. There shouldn’t be more than 15,000 students (and teachers) for a single superintendent to manage.

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