While You Were Out: BPS Blew Up the School Leveling System … AGAIN.

Labor Day is over — and everyone is back to work! Over the summer, the Boston Public Schools and the Boston School Committee were once again up to some outright shenanigans — while the Boston press has been busying themselves by reprinting glowing public relations pieces about the incoming superintendent.

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Back in June, BPS pitched a new and innovative approach to the age-old practice of robbing parents of information we need to make informed decisions about where our kids should go to school (and who to hold accountable for their chronic underperformance) by introducing a new twist to the convoluted school tiering system in Boston.

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Why is it a bunch of lies? Because it’s designed to cover up critical information we need about neighborhoods schools so we can make informed decisions about out children.

We have to trust the information given to us by the district and the state so that we can make decisions that set up our children for success, but since 2013, the Boston Public Schools has made a concerted effort to muddy the water to avoid accountability for their failing system and create a narrative around a thriving urban district.

We know the best place to go for this information is actually the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. Why? Because they are a step away from the system, provide a critical eye around what’s working and doesn’t — and because they do this for districts across the state, provide parents with level context about whether the system their in is actually providing the education system they’ve been promised.

Proximity to wealth or whiteness should not determine whether you are getting access to equitable opportunity.

Well, it shouldn’t, anyway.

But let’s face it — most parents have no idea what a “DESE” even is and certainly don’t spend much time going to their website for information. Instead they go to the Boston Public Schools website — and BPS is looking for possible way to keep parents from the truth.

That’s because if they did, they would find that the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education says three quarters of Boston elementary schools are at some level of failure —meaning level 3,4 or 5. And the schools in the most critical condition within the system are located in our most densely populated communities of color.

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Yeah, right.

It’s no surprise to those of us looking at the data every day that the city of Boston is in critical situation — especially for those of us trying to navigate the system for our Latino children. 44% of children in the Boston Public Schools are Latino — and we must ensure that they can read at grade level to help them to successfully avoid the school to prison pipeline. 

Now as you can imagine, the Boston Public Schools, the Boston School Committee and especially Mayor Walsh don’t much like the independent information they get back from the state — because the results are atrocious. It makes them feel bad.

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Not bad enough to like, actually do something, but it definitely hurts their pride. 

So what do you do when the analysis of your schools doesn’t paint the picture you want?

Just change the goal post.

I mean, it’s pretty convenient if you work within the school system. Sucks if you’re a parent, and you don’t want to send your kid to a crappy school.

Again, all of this dates back in 2013, when the Boston School Committee revamped the school assignment system and a new “Quality Schools Close to Home” plan to ensure that parents actually seeking a decent education for their kids could find it in their own neighborhood — not just the gentrified, predominantly white and wealthy ones.

The only problem being there literally were not enough quality seats to go around. 

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Hence, the current BPS rating system — which now includes “factors” like offering art and music, before and after school programs and school “climate” scores.

Oh, and instead of actual PROFICIENCY in MCAS scores, we’ll just look at “Student Growth Percentiles” and “set targets” for proficiency. 

Why is that a problem?

Proficiency is based on students demonstrating that they have learned the knowledge and skills they are expected to learn as they progress through their education.

Growth is about assessing learning over time and making academic progress made over a period of time, as measured from the beginning to the end of the defined period.

The bottom line: 

PROFICIENCY: We have taught you how to read. We have tested you and this is a skill you possess.

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GROWTH: Ehhhhh … we’re getting closer to teaching you how to read. 

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Maybe?

And any reader familiar with EduMom knows that schools systems attempting to fool parents and communities with bullshit GROWTH percentages instead of PROFICIENCY percentages is the most basic hallmark of a system mired in generational institutional racism. 

Why?

Some systems believe they should only be judged on GROWTH not PROFICIENCY because some kids are only capable of GROWTH and others are actually capable of PROFICIENCY.

You can guess which kids are capable of which. 

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So under the BPS rating system for schools available to parents, schools that aren’t actually capable of teaching children to be proficient in math or reading were allowed to be classified as “level 2” schools — if they were “growing” toward being able to do it — effectively robbing parents of the information they need to make educated choices based on real information — setting parents up for failure and their kids up for another trip on the cycle of poverty merry-go-round.

The one saving grace in all of this was a special designation for level 4 and 5 schools. 

What’s a level 4 or 5 school? These are the schools that the state has determined are failing our children so badly that they are in need of immediate intervention. 

That means being placed under heavy supervision in turnaround status — or literally being placed into receivership. At least parents were able to get a little bit of a heads up before sending their kid to a school that provided an amazing “art program” but wasn’t going to be able to teach their kids reading or math.

In June, the Boston Public Schools presented a plan to the School Committee proposing to once again change the leveling system for schools in the city of Boston. In July, the Boston School Committee quietly approved it UNANIMOUSLY.

So now, parents in the city of Boston get to feel all warm and fuzzy about sending their children to a level 1,2 or 3 school thinking they have set their children up for success in a place that will give them an amazing educational foundation — only to be shocked when they don’t have the skills to pass the exam school test or graduate without being able to take a college level course.

But don’t worry — although the change has already been approved, the new policy will be “up for discussion” at the next Boston School Committee meeting on September 11th. Whatever that means.

And just wait until parents start finding out only 6 out of 25 high schools in the city of Boston are accredited.

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We’ll be covering THAT next week.

What do you think?

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