I know! I know! We’re all so excited about the shiny new building — not just any new school, but the brand new Dearborn STEM Academy!
Y’all are kidding me, right?
First off — to be clear, this beautiful new building has been years in the making. This was Mayor Menino’s final legacy project and sorry folks, this doesn’t mean that the Walsh administration has finally started making good on their 5-year-old broken campaign promise of a $1 billion investment in new facilities. Where are the investments, projects, applications?
And by the way — by 2023, the city has only committed $576M to Boston Public Schools.
Where is the rest of the money coming from?
For which schools?
No one knows.
At this point we can’t even get the stuff that is an easy fix done. And again, 5 years later and not a single school built. Like, we’re not even close.
Meanwhile, charter schools have been able to build new facilities all over the city.
“From East Boston to Mattapan, most of the 16 charter schools in Boston have either a major construction project underway, recently completed one, or are about to embark on one. The 11 projects collectively total almost $300 million and will create about 600,000 square feet for 5,700 students in kindergarten through grade 12, according to a Globe analysis.
The flurry of activity among these independently run public schools over the past five years starkly contrasts the anemic pace of a school construction program launched by Mayor Martin J. Walsh, who made a campaign pledge in 2013 to spend $1 billion to fix the city’s deteriorating school buildings.”
(More here: https://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2018/06/10/boston-charter-schools-enjoy-construction-boom-while-city-run-schools-slow-fix-aging-facilities/Ka5pcDx3hbEIBiKmrIUBXI/story.html)
But we can’t have more of them, because …
Anyway — let’s discuss the Dearborn, shall we?
The Boston Globe:
The Boston Herald:
The Bay State Banner: https://www.baystatebanner.com/2018/08/23/dearborn-promises-21st-century-education/
… all with breathless coverage of the opening the new 6-12 Dearborn STEM Academy in Roxbury.
Glass. The large classrooms. Wifi. Chairs. Like SUPER NICE chairs.
In short, LOTS of building porn.
Every outlet used a version of this picture:
Oh, you don’t know what that is? It’s an HVAC system. (Don’t feel bad, I didn’t know what it was either.)
Here’s a hint: Parents do not actually use HVAC systems to define quality.
Actually, parents know better. Much better.
That’s why only 100 students out of approximately 4,000 9th grade students in BPS ranked the Dearborn as a top 3 choice.
READ THAT AGAIN: Even with $73M of glass, steel, comfy couches, and 3D printers, only about 2% of families were willing to rank the school as one of their first picks — knowing that this beautiful new building was going to be opening this year.
Why? Because parents aren’t stupid.
You can call the Dearborn a “STEM ACADEMY” until the cows come home — but the fact of the matter is this: Only 10% of Black and 12% of Latino students are meeting expectations in math.
Not a single Black or ELL student exceeded expectations in 10th grade science.
Not. A. Single. One.
Again, this is a STEM school. I’m sorry — a STEM ACADEMY.
The fact of the matter is — BPS has been trying to improve the Dearborn for many years without success — in fact, the Dearborn has been teetering on the edge of state takeover by the state since 2010.
Here is what the BPS website says:
“Since 2010 the Dearborn has been designated a Level 4 Turnaround school by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) due to chronic underperformance. In the turnaround plan, there a annual measurable goals the schools must achieve – the Dearborn has not met these goals.”
After four years of turnaround and millions and MILLIONS of dollars, BPS tried a hybrid strategy in 2014. They’ve even partnered with the Boston Plan for Excellence (BPE) to act as an external operator for the school.
It still hasn’t worked.
So do we now think a new building and a “fresh start” will solve this chronic problem?
Nope, probably not. That’s because buildings don’t make schools good.
Students, families, quality teachers, and experienced principals do.
Boston Collegiate is a Boston Commonwealth Charter that started in a warehouse on the waterfront. 100% of black students in 10th grade are proficient in math and in science.
Excel is another Boston Commonwealth Charter. They started in a small unit over a CVS. 96% of Latino students in 10th grade are proficient in math and 93% in science.
Oh, you mad? Just wait.
Speaking of charter schools …
Next week the Brooke Charter Schools will open a new high school in Mattapan — serving 25% more students than the Dearborn — but cost only half as much to build.
Read that AGAIN: The Dearborn cost BPS 2.5 times more per student than the new Brooke High School.
(Also of note: because of the horrific way we penalize charter schools for the high crime of existing in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts — the new Brooke Charter High Schools got no state aid to build its new high school.)
Yet, the new Brooke High School has the money to hire STEM teachers who actually teach STEM curriculum.
Yay. Press conference.
Pretty building. Thanks, Mayor Menino?