Home / Community Comment /

Seeking more reform for Boston schools not an 'extreme' position

To the Editor:

I am an extremist. In a September 20 opinion piece in the Dorchester Reporter ("City gets reform"), Mayor Menino defended the reforms in the recently settled agreement between the City and the Boston Teachers Union, but stated that "the extremes will say the contract doesn't give us much...." The agreement does provide reforms above what was in the previous contract, but it is incremental change at a time when the school system needed a giant leap forward.

An improved teacher evaluation system based on a new state model was adopted by both parties, but no modifications were made to simplify and ensure successful implementation. A new teacher reassignment process was agreed to that provides more flexibility through "mutual consent" for principals and their personnel subcommittees to select teachers, but seniority still plays a role and some teachers will still be administratively assigned to schools without the principal's approval. Teachers eligible for annual step increases would be prohibited from receiving increases if they received an "unsatisfactory" evaluation, but this requirement only applies to new teachers hired after September 2013. No extended time for enrichment programs and instruction as needed is provided for students.

I am an extremist because these steps in the new contract do not go far enough to meet the needs of an urban public school system in Boston with its knowledge-based economy.

I am an extremist because:

• the outcome of this contract is one of the most important policy issue facing the City of Boston this year and one that will have a significant impact on the future direction of the Boston Public Schools;

• without significant reform to improve student performance and effective teaching, the demand by parents and students for more options outside the BPS will grow stronger;

• approximately one-third of Boston's high schools had graduation rates below 50% in 2011;

• too many BPS schools are considered as underperforming by the Commonwealth using the state's Accountability and Assistance Level report. Of Boston's 128 schools, 48% are characterized as Level 3 (48) or Level 4 (12) which means they are in the bottom 20% of all public schools in the Commonwealth.

As an extremist, I know that this contract needed to do more since the next chance to achieve contract reform will be four to five years from now. However, as a realist I know that what is important now is that the incremental reforms which have been negotiated must be fully and effectively implemented by the BPS with the collaborative support of the teachers' union.

Samuel R. Tyler is the President of the Boston Municipal Research Bureau.

Comments

Boston Public School are the #1 urban school system in the Nation! “Boston Public Schools students in grade 10 reached the highest levels of proficiency in the history of the district’s administration of the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System exam, according to results released last week. The results of the spring 2012 exams also show that the students made greater gains than their peers statewide.* “

The outcome of the BPS/BTU contract only concerns Samuel R. Tyler, President of the Boston Municipal Research Bureau, because he represents corporations, businesses, large nonprofits, universities and hospitals that are under scrutiny by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to “maintain a lawful workforce.” In the Boston area, 400 businesses have already “partnered” with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) by joining the agency's “voluntary” employment compliance program IMAGE (ICE Mutual Agreement between Government and Employers). The goal of ICE is to deport 100% of all deportable persons by the year 2012. Probably as punishment to Mayor Menino threatening to opt out of the ICE Secure Communities (S-Comm) program, ICE conducted 89 inspections in the Boston area during 2011 (they only inspected 54 in 2010), and found employees who were working or hired illegally and fined those companies.

If ICE meets their goal, who will fill those jobs when these workers are deported? Who will serve the latte, who will make the beds in the Seaport hotels, who will wash the dishes in the hotel restaurants? These are jobs that can’t be outsourced! Boston area companies are trolling for low paid, service sector “lawful” workers, and where are they looking? In the Boston Public Schools! Who is helping them, their representative, the president of the Boston Municipal Research Bureau, Samuel R. Tyler. At the end of the day, he puts his brief case in his car and heads home to the suburbs!

Communities, that do not have a “Portfolio of Schools,” like the Boston Public Schools, always seem to make AYP? Why? Have you ever heard of schools in Lexington and Wellesley, Massachusetts not making AYP? No! There is a reason for this, and it not that kids in those communities are smarter, or that their teachers are “newer, better, innovative, creative, younger,” and cheaper, “Teach for America” or “Boston Teacher Residency” teachers! Unlike the Boston Public Schools (BPS), in the communities making AYP, all students attend traditional “heterogeneous” schools. Advanced students are offered Advance Placement (AP) courses, or have International Baccalaureate (IB) programs within their regular schools. These communities don’t separate and send students to separate exam, in-district charter, or “beacon of light” pilot schools!

The BPS “Portfolio of Schools” is comprised of 128 schools, 75 are traditional schools that take everyone, and the rest are “special schools” which include 3 exam schools, 21 pilot schools, 6 in-district charter schools, and 3 innovation schools. These BPS “special schools” get to cherry pick 10,000+ students, by exam or by a gate-keeping application process required to participate in a lottery for a seat! Now, segregation is when you impose the separation of a race or class of people from others or from a main body or group. That is what is happening in Boston Public Schools. Only this time, the segregation is happening to Special Education students, English Language Learners and students found “not to be the right fit” for the schools philosophy (read behavior problems). These BPS “special schools” get to return students to BPS traditional schools if “they are not the right fit!” In addition, here is a little BPS secret (tell no one), these “special schools” do not have to “BACKFILL” empty seats! Backfilling “would change their community,” So they do not have the revolving door found in BPS traditional schools.

The Boston Public Schools sets up traditional public schools to fail. When that happens, the BPS qualifies for more federal and state money, then targets traditional schools for pilot, in-district charter, and “innovation” schools. Examples of this include, the Emerson, Clap, Gavin, the small schools at South Boston High and Hyde Park Education Complex, and Madison Park. You can tell which schools are on the BPS “Office of Strategic Planning” hit list because they are saturated, inequitably, with an inordinate percentage of Special Education and English Language Learners, that does not reflect the district populations as a whole. Look at the data from Co-Pilot, now Turnaround and spinning, English High: 35% SPED and 66% ELL- the highest percentage of ELL in a Massachusetts high school!

If you took all the students from the BPS exam, in-district charter, pilot, Horace Mann, and innovations schools and salted them throughout Boston’s traditional schools, all traditional schools would be making AYP! To bring back “high quality schools” for all families, it’s time to change the law and evaluate “school districts” for making AYP, not individual schools!

These BPS “special schools” are really segregation academies paid for with Boston taxpayer dollars! These BPS segregation academies should be required to backfill any empty seats in all grades, and their schools population should reflect the demographic, especially the SPED and ELL populations, of the BPS system. They should be part of the BPS school registration process along with the traditional BPS schools, no gate-keeping applications, no special “lottery,” all BPS schools should go to ONE “showcase of schools.” These schools should be part of the BPS SCHOOL CHOICE PROPOSALS! Why aren't they?! These are Boston Public Schools, paid for with Boston taxpayer dollars, let ALL Boston Public School students have fair access to them!

If Samuel R. Tyler got his clients, the large non-profits, universities, museums and hospitals to pay their fair share for municipal services, Boston could pay for all the services that Samuel R. Tyler feels we need, and a better life could be had by the people who actually live in Boston!

http://www.fenwayhs.org/sites/fenwayhs.org/files/Application_Fenway_2012...

Boston 10th-graders reach high levels on MCAS - West Roxbury, MA - Wicked Local West Roxbury http://www.wickedlocal.com/roslindale/news/x670727554/Boston-10th-grader...