Just trust me and hold tight

At a Mondays with the Mayor event held in West Roxbury this week, Mayor Walsh finally engaged parents in a public forum to discuss the impact of the budget he’s presented. There were again tears from students testifying, anger and frustration on the parts of parents and teachers and deflection from the Mayor.There was much self congratulation on the sheer dollar amount of the budget – ONE BILLION DOLLARS. There was a lot of talk about historic investment in the schools. However, the most interesting part for me was his response, when asked by a parent if the depth of these cuts is going to repeat itself next year. He said it was going to be a rough two years, twenty four months. He said to hold tight and trust him. Give him two years and we will see amazing things.

We are being asked to tolerate untenable conditions for two years. We are a being asked to accept that in two years, things will be amazing and different.

If this were the Park department, they could recover and refocus efforts on rebuilding and rejuvenating our green space after two years.

If this were the Arts and Culture department, they could regroup and reinstitute cultural programming after two years.

If this were the Sports and Tourism department, they could reassemble and reactivate marketing and programing after two years.

2 schools years, 18 months of inadequate instructional support and services means the following for these communties:

Two years from now, children currently in Boston Public schools will have lost countless opportunities to learn, engage, embrace and rejoice in their education. These lost opportunities will never be recaptured.

Families with pre-school aged children across the city

2 years from now many young families will have moved out of the city due to the continued shortage of pre-k seats across the city.

2 years from now the achievement gap for our youngest students will continue to grow due to the myriad cuts to all five EEC/ELC schools including para support and all “extra” programming such as swimming, arts, music, and tennis.

2 years from now the academic skills of our traditionally marginalized students will continue to lag behind their suburban counterparts due to fewer para supports and dramatically higher classroom ratios than the suburbs.

The sophomores and juniors at Boston Community Leadership Academy in Hyde Park:

2 years from now – they may not be able to apply to college if they lose their accreditation due to loss of librarian.

2 years from now they will have had larger classes and less personalized instruction due to the loss of 10 teachers in 2016.

2 years from now they will have missed out on the advantages created by students who have access to theater classes.

2 years from now they will have persevered despite losing their flagship Leadership program for which the school is named.

2 years from now they will not have been able to prep and take the AP Biology and History exams which provide additional advantages as they apply to and attend college.

Sophomores and Juniors at Snowden International in Back Bay

2 years from now their college applications prospects will be impacted because they have not had less access to guidance counselors.

2 years from now their college applications prospects will be impacted because they have lost their librarian and potentially their accreditation.

Guild Elementary students in East Boston

2 years from now their ability to apply to and be accepted at one of the exam schools will be diminished because they have fewer paraprofessionals to assist teachers in academic achievement.

2 years from now, the achievement gap for ELL students will widen because they will have spent two years with fewer English as a Second Language educators

Boston Teachers Union students in Jamaica Plain

2 years from now their ability succeed in high school be diminished because they have fewer teachers in their middle school classes

2 years from now they will have missed out on the additional growth and development previously offered by Playworks and

 Timilty Middle School in Roxbury

2 years from now, their ability succeed in high school be diminished because they lost one of their history teachers

2 years from now, students with IEP/504 designation will be further behind their general education peers academically because their resource room teacher was reduced to part time.

2 years from now, students for whom gym and physical exercise is a vital component of their success at school, will wonder why they have fallen behind. Their gym teacher was eliminated in 2016.

Young Achievers in Mattapan:

2 years from now, teachers who worked in pairs to provide high quality instruction in full inclusion classrooms, will have struggled to meet those same needs on their own due to a reduction to one instructor per classroom. While their students have fallen further behind.

2 years from now, students in need of social and emotional instruction will have lost years of opportunities as these instructors were eliminated in 2016.

The sophomores and juniors at Burke High School in Dorchester:

2 years from now – they will not be able to apply to colleges because they have not access to a foreign language class which is a requirement at most colleges. Their only Spanish teacher was eliminated in 2016

2 years from now – they will have lost the opportunity to advance their 21st skills due to elimnation of their technology teacher in 2016

2 years from now – students with social and emotional concerns will have struggled through unnecessary pain and suffering because of limited access to social workers.

Mather Elementary in Dorchester

2 years from now their ability succeed in middle and high school will be diminished because they have two fewer teachers

2 years from now their options will be further limited compared to their suburban peers due to lost supports from partnership programs at Playworks http://www.playworks.org/communities/massachusetts) & Achievement Network http://www.achievementnetwork.org/

The inevitable conclusion –

Two years from now, pundits and journalists will decry the state of public education in Boston. “How did this happen?” “Massachusetts used to be first in the nation.” “Did no one see this coming?”

Two years from now, the achievement gap between those with access to resources and those without will have become a chasm that may be unbridgeable.

Two years from now, the MCAS scores across the city will have fallen. These ever important markers of success (to school officials and ed reformers) will be touted as proof that Boston Public schools are in need of a major transformation (aka charter school expansion). I personally think they are an extremely poor standard by which to place so much weight as to the success or failure of students, teachers and schools.  But it’s the measure by which schools are currently judged by the public.

Two years from now, enrollment, which has been relatively stable up from 2010 – 2016 will begin to rapidly decrease due to justified concerns over lack of access to basic resources, class offerings and even faculty. Parents that have the means to do so will transfer out of the district either through going to private schools or leaving for the suburbs.

*BPS enrollment: 2010/11 – 57,050 11/12 – n/a, 12/13 – 57,100, 13/14 – 57,000, 14/15 – 57,230, 15/16 – 56,650

5/7/2016 – Edited enrollment numbers to reflect BPS data vs. DESE. DESE doesn’t capture students that transfer in during the fall.

Two years from now, the demand for charter schools, from parents who cannot leave the city, will grow increasingly louder as charter backers ramp up their marketing that they can provide a dramatically different educational experience for students. Based on their past two years of austerity within BPS, parents will be willing to try anything to help their children.

Two years from now, students with special education, emotional and social learning issues will be accepted into newly expanded charter schools on a lottery basis only to be counseled out and back into the dying public schools. * see links at bottom

Two years from now, families that don’t have the time or resources to dive into promises made by charter schools, will believe these schools will be the path out of poverty for their kids. This will be true for a small percentage of them if data from the past few years holds true.

Two years from now, the Walton, Barr, Boston, Gates and Lynch Foundation Cabal will declare that they have been right all along. Public Education in Boston is a failure. It’s failing students across the city. They will disregard all those years Massachusetts and Boston ranked #1 in the country.

Two years from now, Foundation Cabal  will declare that these schools are failing our students for the reasons I’ve listed. Everyone will feign shock and disappointment. They will lay blame at the feet of the teachers union and the previous administrations failures to fix a broken system. They will then begin dismantling, consolidating and/or closing the schools to convert the district to a portfolio district.  But none of this is news. It is intentional. It is laid out and explained here in great, easy to read detail (with charts and graphs even!).  https://publicschoolmama.com/bps-and-the-18-month-plan/

Two years from now, the remaining schools will be left to slowly wither away until the only students left in them are the ones the charters won’t keep – English Language Learners and students with special needs.

Additional data points regarding charter success or lack of:

Boston Charters push out vs MCAS scores: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1oEfD0Dk278ipunC46lZfLtWsU94m5D3INZmmLnvXWoI/edit#gid=1109945258

Boston Renesaince cohort attrition:  https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1_JFsx3xy3qJ6_CqtvU2vV_XxF_iWFgX95UaLxmAlkEE/edit#gid=0

Brook Charter schools data including ELL and suspension data: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1qaJcVmbXZkm33OPZY0SNR5kcgNuRbPZs56StuYaTxys/edit#gid=750622232

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Boston Public Schools – The latest stop in the lead poisoning of children

If you feel that Boston’s elected and school officials should be held to a higher standard than what has transpired in Flint, MI, please read through to the end. Boston public school students have been being exposed to lead at school for months. Last week on April 26th, it was reported that there were four schools had dangerous lead levels in a water fountain. These schools included Boston Latin Academy, Murphy K-8, Kenny Elementary school & the Hernandez K-8 School. Parents were notified via a robocall. At the school committee meeting on April 27th, a teacher from the Hernandez and parent gave a heartbreaking testimony regarding her drinking for years from one of the contaminated fountains including while pregnant. She said she will know always question if her son’s Autism is at all linked to the excessive exposure while in utero. Mary Battenfield then presented a plan proposed by parents asking for transparency, how to assist families in testing for exposure and tracking those students to address any issues that arise in the future among other policy suggestions.

They were followed by Kim Rice, Director of Operations and Jill Carter, Executive Director, Department of Health and Wellness. Here is a link to the video. I’ve transcribed portions of the testimony to highlight the tone of the presentation.

http://www.cityofboston.gov/cable/video_library.asp?id=16545

Water policy testimony and questioning begins at approximately 1:19:45

KR – 100% of the schools have been tested. This was not a sampling. Everyone can be clear that all the water they are drinking in the buildings is good drinking water. In all schools. They are either off line meaning fountains are not on and there are water bubblers, in a lot of instances they are even on line with water bubblers – there are multiple water sources within the building.

We made sure that 100% of our water that is accessible is good drinking water.

 JC – I also want to highlight one piece. The idea for testing all of these schools and getting students back to drinking as much water as they need, the reason why we found in these schools is because we had this strong push and vision to make sure that all our students have access to drinking water. And so we found these things because we were going above and beyond to test everything and because we didn’t want to make a plan without knowing. ….. If we are going to have trust with the community that we are doing the best we can, to make sure that they have access not just to water but to safe water.

KR: This has been a good learning experience in terms of communication protocols.

Towards the end of the discussion, Dr. Chang praised their efforts. “I want to make one commendation. When we found out every fountain wasn’t being tested annually, this team immediately insisted that we needed to test every water fountain.

Later that evening (at like 10:30 pm) Boston Schools, via twitter confirmed that 34/38 fountain tests returned below the EPA action limit of 15 parts per billion (ppb).

Fast forward one week and we get the news that Oops, nope, four more schools.  Now parents at the Curley School, Mather Elementary, Lee K-8 School & Another Course to College. These are four more schools that had water in “on-line” fountains that had levels the EPA considered dangerous. These fountains were working for somewhere between a few hours to a few weeks. BPS knew in December that some fountains tested higher than acceptable at The Mather Elementary School and turned off the water. Kim Rice met with staff on January 29th to discuss the water situation. But didn’t notify school families until February 12th. In addition, the families were told not to worry, there were no health risks associated with the elevated levels. BPS was just being proactive by turning off those fountains. If she knew about the issues at the Mather, why did she not include it in last week’s count of schools impacted by elevated levels of lead.

Fortunately, I guess, my daughter’s school doesn’t have working water fountains so she’s being drinking bubbler water all year. Gratefully she is having a wonderful experience at her school. I fully believe the staff has her and all the students best interests in mind every day.

However, at this point, I’ve lost all confidence in the Central Office administration. Between the Finance Departments inability to answer basic questions at City Council hearings regarding their budget (I’ll be writing about this soon), to the misinformation presented at the School committee last week, I’m not sure if they are poorly prepared, misinformed, disingenuous or flat out lying.

What I do know is this. This ongoing would never be tolerated in the suburbs. Parents have been communicating their frustration with the Mayor, Superintendent Chang and our City Council members.  Does anyone with any clout in this city care about our kids enough to stand up to the Mayor and the behind the scenes ed reformers driving his agenda and say enough is enough? If you live in outside Boston and wouldn’t tolerate this in your schools, please join with the families of Boston and demand better facilities for every student in the state regardless of zipcode. Contact Governor Baker (and demand that he address this growing health situation.

We were told on Monday night by Mayor Walsh – “hold tight, trust us”. Well I for one, will no longer hold tight. Nor do I trust you.