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State report blasts BPS day before state board could vote to take over Boston schools

The state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education today formally blasted Boston Public Schools, saying they need "immediate improvement," especially in the ways the system deals with special-education and ESL students and transportation and with the fact its central administration is pretty dysfunctional.

The department's board tomorrow could consider putting BPS into receivership, even though the state review came a year earlier than specified in a 2020 "memorandum of understanding," at a meeting that starts at 9:30 a.m. at the McCormack State Office Building downtown. The meeting will be livestreamed online.

BPS has shown little to no progress in addressing the needs of its students with disabilities, English learners, and students at the district’s lowest-performing schools, resulting in continued poor outcomes for tens of thousands of students. Persistent challenges in these areas have been exacerbated by significant leadership turnover in the district’s special education and English learner departments.

The report was not completely negative:

Strong teacher diversification pipeline programs, initial improvements to English learner services, enhanced professional development offerings, and more consistent use of growth assessments across the district were also identified as strengths.

Finally, there is some evidence that the district is beginning to use its considerable one-time funding to directly support student needs, such as funding the district's Quality Guarantee, which has provided enhanced staffing to underperforming schools. The district is also beginning to make some headway in much-needed facilities repairs, renovations, and upgrades.

The superintendent effectively led these initiatives, despite challenges in managing a central office with entrenched dysfunction. They represent real progress over a short period of time and in some cases may lay the groundwork for transformative change within BPS. However, ongoing work in these areas is in early stages of implementation and remains highly vulnerable to disruption.

Complete report (188 pages, 2.5M PDF).
Critique of the report: It seriously undervalues the good teaching happening in BPS.
WBUR:
State report rips Boston Schools, demands 'bold' response.

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Comments

Does the state monitor parochial schools at all? You just don't hear about them as often as you used to.

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Very off-topic.

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They are monitored just like any other private school. They aren't public.

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The Pioneer Institute on Monday called for appointment of a "receiver-superintendent" to a six-year term, creation of a "hybrid school committee" featuring both state and city representatives, and a six-year intervention by both BPS and the state aimed at "right-sizing the district's central office," updating curricula, and improving the lowest-performing schools.

"The central office has grown chaotic under a 'musical chairs' of superintendents and is no longer capable of leading the necessary change," the think tank said in a statement.

Maybe the state could also build a regional math and science magnet school while they're at it.

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...was not elected or appointed to have authority over anything and so should be given as much credence as say Eugene Rivers, which is to say none. I could give less than one shit what some Ayn Rand reading plutocrat like Adam Portnoy thinks about how my kids get educated. I would bet $100 that his kids never darkened the doorsteps of any BPS school.

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The Sierra Club should have no say over anything related to the environment since they were "not elected or appointed to have authority over anything" either. And the ADL should keep its mouth shut about anti-Semitism because they were "not elected or appointed to have authority over anything."

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The Sierra Club has an active interest in protecting the environment and our wild spaces. The ADL has an active interest in preventing anti-Semitism. The Pioneer Institute does not and never ever will give a single shit about poor people or minorities or their education, just their own tax payer priorities (makers win, takers lose) so perhaps you can see why I don't view those three entities as similar.

The Pioneer Institute probably views the Great Molasses Flood as a sad case of a business losing a valuable asset and thinks the real tragedy of the Triangle Shirtwaist fire was that it led to restrictive labor laws.

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Look, I would never claim that the Pioneer Institute is right on issues, but their research over the decades have focused not on destroying the public sector, but making the public sector work. Yes, that has meant things like cheering on charter schools, but they've also been interested in things like making the GLX work within a reasonable budget. In a case like this, they would appear to be interested in making sure Massachusetts develops educated high school graduates. You may not like their point of view, but they in fact do give multiple shits about poor people.

And I should disclose that I do know someone who worked for them over a decade ago. I also know someone who worked for the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center 2 decades ago. I would defend their work as much as I would defend the work of the Pioneer Institute, even though no one would confuse the two.

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What track record does the pioneer institute have at running schools or taking over districts? Have they done that before? Why should we listen to them? How are they even connected to BPS?

We know the state has a terrible track record of takeovers and receivership so the fact that pioneer would recommend them says a lot about pioneer.

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If the only circumstance in which someone's opinion about state takeovers of school districts should be considered is when they have experience at running schools or taking over districts, why are you commenting? By your standards, your opinion on the matter is worthless.

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Is a right-wing anti-tax organization that wants to cut public goods so rich people can pay less taxes: including public education, public transportation, and health care.

I wouldn't trust their advice to run a dog shelter, much less a complicated public organization like the Boston school system

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Former Massachusetts Senate President Tom Birmingham, a Democrat, joined the Pioneer Institute in 2015 as Distinguished Senior Fellow in Education.[9]

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pioneer_Institute

The pioneer institute has at least been looking for alternative solutions while gathering data from actual parents and not just administrators.

https://commonwealthmagazine.org/education/parents-give-mixed-grades-to-...

Sticking with the status quo and not going with a more significant shake up hurts the students in the most need of assistance.

The city of Boston spends around $20k per student every school year. That money would be better spent by parents with school choice options than the endless funding of BPS with their continued poor results and track record of lies.

https://www.bostonglobe.com/2022/01/31/metro/bps-may-have-overstated-gra...

https://www.bostonglobe.com/2022/02/02/opinion/with-bps-data-now-looking...

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Shouldn't you blaming CRT for this somehow, like you did for the Dedham attack?

Keep your word salad and useless blind links that you don't read for your right wing blogs.

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You don't need to agree with someone, but many are adding to the discussion.

The old line about ideas and armpits.

Mine are warm and cozy, yours stink.

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"Bostonperson" is a Qanon conspiracy theorist who blithely accused me (not to mention a supreme court justice and vox.com) of being pro-pedophile. Literally. How would you react?

He's spreading the conspiracy theory that "CRT" (which he is certain is telling black and white kids to hate each other) is being taught in schools AND led directly to the Dedham attack on a waitress. Literally. How would you react?

So yeah, I'm pointing out this person is a hateful, slandering troll attempting to cloak himself in clouds of verbosity and useless links to cover up his real, incredibly harmful goals.

It's not about ideas, it's about "bostonperson" literally demonizing anyone on in the left. You can't have a reasonable conversation with someone so far from being a reasonable human being.

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I didn’t accuse anyone of anything. I asked you what you thought a proper sentence would be for the child rapist cop (you never answered) and also called for harsher laws for pedophiles from anyone in the justice system. You do nothing but attack, twist words and spread lies. I then say (as a person on the left, mind you) it’s these exact qualities that may be putting the Democratic Party in danger of losing swing voters and you call me a conspiracy theorist. Ok Pete.

Here’s my exact quote regarding the teens in Dedham who attacked the target they labeled “white woman” in what should be a hate crime but is merely multiple counts of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon

“Kids who are not upheld to face any consequences for their actions and are educated in today’s climate of dividing people, are being raised as borderline racist terrorists. They end up hating other races while simultaneously inflicting harm upon their own, all because of a system of education that is in place to tribalize the individual, not for the good of the community, but for the aid of those in power.”

Someone else brought up CRT and schools and I said:

“If you don’t think education in America over the last few decades has been operating from the standpoint of those who support critical race theory, then you haven’t been paying attention.”

This is the truth, Pete. You can stay as angry as you please, but it is the truth.

What kind of harmful goals do you think I’m looking to achieve?

Better schools?
Public safety?
Less racism?
Preventing total carnage for democrats in 2022 and 2024?

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…has spouted some grossly bigoted and racist crap in other threads.

It’s OK to refuse good-faith engagement with people spreading racist propaganda.

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You are also part of the problem with the Democratic Party right now. Simply thinking everyone else who isn’t as far left as you is a racist is buying into some serious propaganda.

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Your corpus of racist comments are on record here and speaks for itself. And I am not the only one to point this out.

If the jackboot fits…

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Now Tom has Republican cooties.

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.

Dear BPS Families and Community,

In March, officials from the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) conducted a comprehensive review of BPS curriculum, transportation, delivery of student services and district operations. This review was a welcome midpoint progress report after BPS entered into a partnership with DESE in March 2020, after a similar review in the fall of 2019.

The results of the DESE review will be shared publicly on Tuesday May 24th at the their meeting. The Board will discuss the report, but we do not expect any action on the report tomorrow.

As expected, the report highlights a number of areas where BPS has made considerable progress over the past three years. Some of the notable improvements include:

The adoption of MassCore, a rigorous set of academic graduation standards that sets consistent expectations for all high school students;Implementation of a Quality Guarantee that commits to a baseline of consistent services so that all students receive a high-quality experience regardless of school, program or neighborhood;A consistent approach to literacy through the use of updated curricular materials, enhanced professional development, and ongoing monitoring of results; and,Investments to strengthen native language instruction and biliteracy and a move toward practices consistent with the LOOK Act to support students learning English.

The review also takes a deep look at areas where immediate action is needed to deliver on our commitment to students and families, particularly in the areas of special education and transportation. We share the community’s urgency and readiness for solutions, and BPS is committed to moving forward to address these challenges. The DESE report in particular highlights the need to:

Continue to improve on-time performance for transportation services;Ensure that inclusion is at the foundation of special education in every school, and significantly reduce the disproportionate placement in substantially separate programs for students of color;Improve teaching and learning in each of BPS’ Transformation Schools through robust, evidence-based Quality School Plans;Provide high-quality services to all English learners, including English learners with disabilities; and,Address significant deferred maintenance in our school facilities and develop a district-wide master plan for facilities.

We stand ready to address the long-standing challenges highlighted by DESE that underscore the transformational change that BPS students, families, educators deserve. We join our new mayoral administration in recommitting to this important work. This work will require increasing staffing, operational support, and other resources, including a more robust collaboration with City departments, to ensure that we are prepared to meet all of our students’ needs.

We believe that a strengthened partnership between the City, BPS and DESE can ensure action on critical challenges and accountability for clear, timely progress. Our District’s new Superintendent will play a pivotal role in leading that work. 

Together, we have begun discussions with Commissioner Riley and DESE staff to collaboratively determine ways to strengthen our partnership. To be clear, we believe that an updated and strengthened partnership with DESE is critical to driving solutions, but ultimately, no one is better equipped to accelerate the progress Boston has made than our BPS communities.

We will continue to update you as these discussions continue, and we welcome your input and ideas. We will update the School Committee this Wednesday at 5:00pm during our regularly scheduled meeting.

Boston’s future leaders are sitting in our Boston classrooms today, and our City’s future depends on their success. We hold our obligation to our students as a sacred responsibility, and will continue our work – all hands on deck – to help them reach their full potential.

In partnership,

Michelle Wu
Mayor, City of Boston

Jeri Robinson
Chair, Boston School Committee

Dr. Brenda Cassellius
Superintendent, Boston Public Schools

More staff and resources... Yeah, that'll fix it.

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Is always the request to get to the solution. The system is broken and needs complete overhaul. Pouring more money on the problem will not solve the issue because top down administration of over 50,000 students and over 4,000 teachers by a government office with little accountability will always fail.

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The state is giving Wu an opportunity to respond.

State Education Commissioner Jeffrey Riley hammered Boston Public Schools for its “bloated” central office and “unconscionable” transportation failures in his first public comments Tuesday on a new state review of the district, but held off on recommending any takeover of city schools, saying he remains “hopeful and optimistic” that the state and city can reach agreement on a plan for urgent improvement.

"Bloated" doesn't sound like the state is going to approve yet more staff in the central office.

https://www.bostonglobe.com/2022/05/24/metro/state-education-board-mayor...

“I want to be respectful of the mayor, and give her time and space to see if she is willing to provide us with the assurances that things are going to improve for our children,” Riley told the board.

What's the over/under on Wu being able to say anything realistic?

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The investigators found that even with the bloated central office, nothing was accurately recorded - late buses, state of building repair, etc. the dysfunction is on all levels and they need to clean house otherwise it’s just status quo.

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But where is he evidence that the state has the capability of fixing any of those problems. Its track record at improving substandard school systems is "underwhelming".

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because the idea that any school system can fix problems that are created by society wide, systemic issues, is complete nonsense. Ask the schools to do something impossible, they will fail because there are no tools available to a school system to address the real issues. When the state takes over such a "failing" school district, it likewise lacks any tools for using schools to correct negative externalities.

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That BPS can fix any of those problems? Their track record appears to be underwhelming as well.

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How do we address the gang/urban warfare going on in the halls of education?

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But when I was in high school, there were students from opposing “cohorts” who had to attend school together. There were lots of meditations with the Deans, strong relationships with Boston street workers and peace treaties for school hours.

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Become a Social Worker, Teacher, Mentor.

Talk to actual Boston Public School students.

Do what YOU can.

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Gangs are not the issues causing major problems. Lack of resources, poor leadership, poverty, etc is what really holds BPS back

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A large group of kids I went to school with lived in the projects and did just fine. Some even had cars. I didn't have a car in high school. Just because you are not well off, does not mean you can't do better. This is disingenuous to the kids who try.

Resources? Boston spends more per pupil than Nantucket, Concord-Carlisle, Lincoln-Sudbury, Sherborn, Amherst, Waltham, Wellesley, Burlington, Dedham, Brookline, Newton, Medford, Salem, Framingham, Randolph, etc. Try harder.

Leadership? Maybe you are right there. The City has been led astray by conservative think tanks and somehow they appear to be winning the take over. That's failed leadership.

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I was poor growing up in BPS as were pretty much every other kid I went to school with. What I meant by that was instead of fully focusing on my homework, I was working until 10 at the mall to help with financial stress. Many of my peers had to play parent to their younger siblings because childcare is freaking expensive even with some subsidies (working parents make too much to qualify but not enough to afford it on their own). Lack of focus because of lack of nutrition, etc. Poverty was just an umbrella word. Glad things worked out for you though!

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$27,000/student, which I’m pretty sure is the highest spending out of all the large cities in the US is lacking in resources? Does not compute

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Is really just the total school budget divided by the student population if I am not mistaken. So in theory it may not mean each student is getting 27K in "resources".

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But then where the hell is all that money going?!?!

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During fiscal year 2017, more than 10 percent of district’s budget – $116 million dollars – went to transporting kids to and from school. That works out to about $2,000 per kid per year.

According to recent data from U.S. Census Bureau, the average large school district spends around $350.

Why does Boston spend so much on school transportation?

The Legacy Of Busing

https://www.wgbh.org/news/2017/05/14/news/high-costs-and-empty-seats-why...

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My friend’s kid barely has a bus driver for a full week and the school year is almost over. I think there’s a huge difference between what they put on paper vs where the allocated money actually goes because the bus/driver shortage has been horrific this year

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Is where, when the bus didn't show up at all, they didn't count it as "late."

Transportation on-time arrival data provided by BPS to DESE as part of the district’s MOU progress reporting were inaccurate due to the existence of uncovered routes. The district did not count buses that simply never showed up as “late,” thereby inflating the count of buses that arrived on time. After DESE brought this issue to the attention of the city, BPS took months to correct it. BPS provided a corrected transportation data report only after DESE initiated the Follow-Up District Review.

Easy way to juke the stats: disappear things. They did the same with dropouts.

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I'm sorry what now?

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I went to English High in the 80's when gangs were pretty intense. Metal detectors, security guards, etc.

Never had a problem. That's not to say there aren't problems but the educators I know haven't mentioned any "urban warfare in the halls of education."

Unless of course by gangs you mean the folks that don't want the real history of the US taught...

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Mary Tamer, a former Boston Public Schools board member, up now. Says we’re likely “facing years of mediocrity and failure” at BPS. “We have no accountability” for district. “This is a crisis that requires intervention,” she says.

God Mary Tamer sucks so much. Washed-out school board member crawls out of her Westie hole to remind us why we don’t miss her.

https://mobile.twitter.com/CotterReporter/status/1529131279312117760

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I’m sorry your hate of Mary Tamer prevents you from seeing the issue and moving forward. What exactly did you think you’d find going to the Twitter page of a journalist reporting on the issue?

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We are new to BPS with our grandson that we have custody of, is in K-0. Everyone at his school and with transportation has been great but our main problem has been with morning transportation. The little guy is autistic and he needs transportation to and from school with a monitor both ways. If there is no monitor, the bus just never comes. We don't hear anything and it makes the little guy very frustrated. This morning was the last straw. We have been very vocal about the bus issues and plan to bill the city for mileage that the sped ed director told us about. They sent a second bus to come and get him this morning and have assured me that yes a monitor will be on the bus. It is a problem because the school that he goes to is in another neighborhood and it a little ride to the school.We shall see tomorrow if there is a monitor on the bus.

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