In a Boston Globe opinion piece this past Friday, Boston School Committee member, Meg Campbell wrote, “I do raise the question of how 92 percent of our Boston Public School teachers can be rated proficient or exemplary when more than 50 percent of our schools are low performing? Shall we just blame the kids?”
Since Ms. Campbell raised the question, let me try to provide at least part of the answer. During the School Assignment Process this past year the one piece of data, that parents and I repeatedly asked the Boston Public Schools (BPS) External Advisory Committee for, and never received, was the student test data broken down by neighborhood. We asked that it be aggregated by those students currently attending traditional public schools, those attending charter schools, and METCO. We felt that school “quality” would change overnight as children were marched into different schools. The children are the data; the “quality” of the neighborhood schools they attend would be determined by where kids who scored high on MCAS were placed.
I’ve written about this before but it is worth repeating here, communities that use a Unified School System model, always seem to make AYP? Why? Have you ever heard of schools in Lexington, Wellesley or Weston not making AYP? No! There is a reason for this, and it not that kids in those communities are smarter, or that their teachers are better. In the communities making AYP, all students attend traditional “heterogeneous” schools. Their schools have programs that reflect the interest of the community and advanced students are offered Advance Placement (AP) courses, or have International Baccalaureate (IB) programs, WITHIN their regular schools. These communities don’t separate and send students to separate exam or charter schools!
Traditional public schools in Boston do not compete on a level playing field. Mayor Menino, supported by his appointed Boston School Committee, made the decision to adopt a “portfolio model” for our district, which has lead to a two-tier system in our schools. In the Boston Public Schools (BPS) “portfolio of schools” there is 128 schools. Among these, the BPS has 3 exam schools, 21 pilot, 5 Horace Mann, and 4 “innovation” schools. Then there are the 23 Commonwealth Charter Schools in Boston, and they accept Boston students, but are their own separate districts and are not accountable to the Boston Public School District but to the Department of Education (DOE). One example of a Commonwealth Charter is the Codman Academy Charter School in Dorchester, Boston School Committee member, Meg Campbell, is the founder and executive director there.
Commonwealth charter schools are not “level funded” but are “average funded” by the sending district. I wrote a detailed piece about it here on BMG titled “MADOE Commissioner Mitchell Chester…Listen Up!” To briefly sum it up, to educate a Regular Ed student in a BPS traditional school cost $11,855. However, when you add the cost of all the BPS Special Ed and Ell students, the cost “averages” out to $15,227. Charter schools are paid the “average” $15,227. even though their population of students is mostly regular ed, and in no way reflects the English Language Learner and Special Education demographic of the Boston Public Schools! This $15,227 tuition figure BPS pays, does not include the busing expense, which BPS pays for, nor does it include the “non-tuition” State, Federal, Foundation, and NMTC (New Market Tax Credit) investor revenue, which Codman Charter, and other Commonwealth charter schools, also receive.
At Codman Charter in Dorchester only 2%, (3 students) are LEP (Limited English Proficient) in a community like Boston that has a high population of new comers, only 3 LEP students! In 2011, they had .7% – that’s point seven percent! In the BPS 30.6% of its students are LEP.
In 2010, Codman Charter started out with a 9th grade cohort of 53 students. In 2011, when those students entered grade 10, an MCAS grade, 19 students vanished from Codman Charters roll! This June only 24 students from that cohort remain, they did not backfill those empty seats. There is no way to predict if all 24 of these students will graduate but historically Codman Charter has had a low graduation rate. In 2012, Codman’s four year graduation rate was 62.5%!
These Commonwealth Charter schools, like Codman Charter, take our children, try them out, and send those children that are “not the right fit” back to BPS. One way that happens is by Suspensions. At Codman Charter the Suspension Rate is 23.5%. In BPS it is only 4%. How many days can a parent take off of work to address their kids issues before they don’t have a job?
Meg Campbell is an APPOINTED member of the Boston School Committee, after reading her article I’ve come to think of her as carpetbagger. You would think that she would be relieved and proud that 92% of the teachers in the Boston Public Schools were evaluated proficient and exceeds expectations. You would think that she would be the first to step up to the plate and investigate why there were discrepancies in nationality, color and age for those teachers that did not meet the cut. You would think she would have Investigated the many educational vendors who have been allowed to saturate our schools to tell teachers “how to do it” without addressing or even acknowledging the systemic problems that a two-tiered system has created and which Ms. Campbell, in pursuit of HER dream of Expeditionary Learning for a few, has contributed negatively to the rest of Boston’s children.
Personally, I feel that Ms. Campbell is intentionally trying to deflect the role that charter schools, like Codman Charter, have contributed to the underperformance of traditional public schools. If you took all the exam, pilot, Horace Mann, innovation and Commonwealth charter school students and salted them in Boston’s Traditional Schools would 50% of our schools be “low performing?” I don’t think so!
Shrewdly, Ms. Campbell slams the findings generated by the administrators in our schools, who have been professionally developed on the “evaluative instrument” ad nauseam and, not unionized, work at the “will of the superintendent!” What Ms. Campbell is unfolding is a generalized process of demonization of an entire population group, Boston Teachers and Administrators, committed people, on the frontline, who are in direct service to Boston’s children! Ms. Campbell has forgotten, or never considered, that we are part of the Boston Public School team!
It is clear that she has her own agenda, and there is, I feel, a conflict of interest. Back in February of this year, she applied to the DOE and received a wavier to increase maximum enrollment, and to change the grade span served at Codman Charter. She plans to open a k-8 charter school in Hyde Park. What better way to “make a compelling argument for the need for a K-8 school in the area it serves” than by making an unsupported allegation on the quality of the teaching force she plans on replacing! Would someone tell me, with a charter school graduation rate as dismal as Codman’s, how that school is considered “high quality” enough to expand?
I was surprised and questioned Mayor Menino’s wisdom in placing Ms. Campbell on our school committee. As the executive director of Codman Charter, Ms. Campbell represents her own school district and as she has demonstrated that is her priority. Busing students is costing BPS 79,993,027 million a year. The Boston School Committee just spent the past year trying to get kids off the bus and into a “quality” neighborhood school in an attempt to reduce this expense and reallocate this money back into the schools. Yet Meg Campbell is not only putting 200 kids back on the bus, as a charter school these students will be bussed citywide, and BPS will be required by State law to pay for it! I have no trust that Ms. Campbell can make the decisions that will unite our school system as a whole, and will be in the best interest of ALL our children moving forward. Ms. Campbell needs to resign from the Boston School Committee, and parents, of students currently enrolled in Boston’s Traditional Public Schools, need to be appointed to any openings.