Greater Boston Education Reports

Greater Boston

From startling inequities in education spending to what MCAS scores have revealed about bilingual education, this series probes the challenges, successes, and conflicts that define Massachusetts public schools. Reported by Greater Boston's Executive Producer, John Carroll.

Eleven years after school superintendent Tom Payzant took over the Boston public schools, the system is radically transformed; with smaller learning environments, standardized curriculums and improved student test scores. But when Tom Payzant leaves this June, four individuals involved in the system say there’s still work to be done.

Boston School Superintendent Thomas Payzant is leaving this June after almost eleven years on the job.

At a Roxbury GED center, teacher Luc Schuster says he’s seen an increase in young black men coming for GEDs. “We’ve always had a high population of young black men but I’d say particularly in the last six months, we’ve really seen…a real increase in enrollment.”

In Dorchester, a group of teenagers rehearse spreading the message of sexual abstinence.

The search is on for the next Boston Public Schools superintendent, and expectations are high for whoever gets the job.

Some districts can’t afford full-day programs and others can. Some parents don't like the idea of mandatory all-day kindergarten. Greater Boston visits Potter Road School in Framingham to see how their full-day kindergarten program is going.

At the new Beacon Academy in Boston, students say they’re willing to take a step back in order to take a leap forward.

Because of city and state budget cuts, the town of Saugus, Mass. almost eliminated sports last year. What saved them from the chopping block? Instituting school fees.

Five years ago when Greater Boston visited Dorchester High School, the school had among the highest MCAS failure rates in the state. Then in 2003 Dorchester High became three smaller high schools. How are students faring now?

The Great Schools Campaign wants Massachusetts to allocate $400 to $600 million dollars for public education, starting with 25 million right away for ailing schools. But some don’t think the vision behind the Great Schools Campaign is so great.

Persistence is the theme echoed every week at the Academy of the Pacific Rim. “Today’s gambatte goes to Diana Polette,” principal Dimitry Anselme says. “The principle at the Academy is around gambatte. It is a Japanese term talking about persistence, sticking to something or sticking to an effort until you get it done.”

In the long-anticipated ruling, the Supreme Judicial Court said Massachusetts is meeting its constitutional duty to fund schools in lower-income communities rejecting a lawsuit that challenged the state’s education funding formula.

Roxbury Charter High School for Business, Finance and Entrepreneurship will close its doors next June two years after it opened, ironically because of money problems.

Brookline High School just wrapped up its football season and not without incident. About ten players suffered concussions. With varying grades of damage, concussions don’t always cause a person to black out.

The Community Task Force on Student Assignment has been holding a series of public discussions in recent weeks. They have been listening to parents with passionate opinions over the issue of school choice, and assessing whether the current system of school choice works.
In February, the state Board of Education approved a new charter school for Cambridge, which is set to open next year. Cambridge Mayor Michael Sullivan and the school committee oppose the new school. But its supporters promise it will open in 2005.
Among the most telling signs in budget cuts to education is the rising number of superintendent vacancies and the limited number of applicants they attract. These are tough times for schools, and they make for even tougher, and often controversial, decisions in districts statewide. Framingham's budget woes have filtered throughout the entire system.
A growing number of families of color are now choosing to home school their children for the simple reason that they feel urban schools are failing.
Almost a year ago, Massachusetts voters overwhelmingly supported the elimination of bilingual education in public schools. Today, by law, schools across the state are required to teach in English.
One quarter of all Massachusetts high-school students are either overweight or obese. From Biggie Fries to Big Gulps, we’re seeing the super-sizing of a generation.
District by district, the rough and tumble economy is smothering public education. How will reality bite the Boston Public schools?
Tucked into a very old and very modest building in Brighton is Boston’s most state-of-the-art high school.
A decade ago, Massachusetts legislators included an experimental measure in the Education Reform Act: charter schools. Today their success is ambiguous, with some terrific achievements and some horrific failures.
In September 2003, the Boston Teachers Union contract ended, leaving union and school officials eight months to agree on terms for a new contract. The last negotiations saw a strike very narrowly averted. But this time it may be the economy that holds all the bargaining power.
Since the day it opened, Newton North High School has been riddled with facility problems. From poor air quality to bad heating, the school has been something of an albatross. But things went from bad to worse in the fall of 2002 when Newton’s mayor made a surprise announcement.
Whoever wins the governor’s seat this fall will face some critical education issues right off the bat. First, thousands of high school seniors will be denied diplomas on the basis of their MCAS scores. Also, bilingual education programs may be tossed out in favor of an English immersion plan, and in this economy, funding education could be precarious.
In November, Massachusetts voters will be asked to decide the fate of bilingual education.
Nearly 20 percent of public high school seniors still have not passed the state’s graduation requirement — the MCAS exam. As the clock ticks down to their June 2003 graduation deadline, a group of attorneys has filed a class action lawsuit on their behalf. They are asking for immediate injunctive relief against using the MCAS test as a graduation requirement.
Until recently, most of what students learned of American history came from third-hand accounts in textbooks. But now Primary Source, a nonprofit organization in Watertown, is changing that-making use of primary sources like diaries, maps, and letters— to help teachers add a personal dimension to history.
Although the MCAS has enjoyed recent popularity because of improved test scores, the controversy continues. Concern now lies with the MCAS retest, which allows 10th graders who failed last spring a second, third, and fourth chance to pass.
The Cambridge school system is about to implement a new student assignment plan-one based on socio-economic diversity rather than racial diversity. That has many parents apprehensive, and some Cambridge officials concerned about the possible effects of the new plan.
Worcester Vocational High School has a problem — its buildings date back almost 100 years and are increasingly a liability, putting even the school's accreditation at risk. Worcester has a plan to build a new vocational high school, but there's one thing standing in the way: environmentalists.
Massachusetts is the birthplace of bilingual education. But thirty years later, it is a birthright few want to claim.
At the Parlin School in Everett, all children receive character education. Some critics say that character education is just another name for teaching morality. But supporters say that the cultural and media climate children face these days makes character education all the more necessary.
Pilot and charter schools are seen by many as good alternatives to traditional public schools. Critics fear that these schools may simply take the "cream of the crop" from public schools and create a two-tiered system of public education.
Last year at Newton South High School messages threatening to blow up the school and shoot students were found scribbled in a bathroom. School was cancelled, new security measures were enacted, and a Newton South student was eventually arrested. As the 2000 school year begins, administrators at Newton South are wrestling with the fallout from last year's events.
Beginning with the class of 2003, students will be required to pass math and English MCAS tests in order to receive their diplomas. Students and teachers alike voice concern over high-stakes testing and outcome-based teaching. Greater Boston’s John Carroll visits Charlestown High, where 71% of tenth graders failed the English MCAS test and 91% failed the math MCAS test.
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