Our City, Our Schools: Boston Public Schools Need Resources, Not Receivership or State Intervention!
We are writing to Members of the Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education to urge them to publicly denounce calls to place the Boston Public Schools (BPS) into receivership or other forms of state intervention. Instead, we ask them to please listen to what Bostonians are clearly stating we want for our schools. Boston communities want stability, greater investment, and democratic governance.
Use the talking points below to write a personalized letter explaining why Boston Public Schools need resources and stability, not receivership!
Commissioner Riley and BESE members have made a commitment to anti-racism training and developing anti-racist pedagogy, policies, and systems, but state takeovers harm students and communities of color. The harm must end. Please consider the following facts:
Here in Massachusetts and across the nation, takeovers have targeted Black and Latinx communities, stripping local elected officials of control of their schools and disenfranchising families and residents.
Takeovers punish educators for working with disadvantaged student populations, taking away teacher voice and rights, to the detriment of students who rely on their teachers to advocate for them.
Takeovers perpetuate racial and economic injustice, including segregation. Here in Massachusetts, receivership decisions are based largely on measures (standardized test achievement scores) that a Nobel Prize winning MIT economist recently found to be racially biased and inaccurate measures of school quality. According to the MIT study: “Rating schemes that reward family background rather than educational effectiveness are likely to direct households to low-minority rather than higher-quality schools, while penalizing schools that improve achievement for less-advantaged groups.”
Takeovers have an abysmal track record in Massachusetts, even by DESE’s own standards. BESE has voted to place three districts in receivership: Lawrence in 2011; Holyoke in 2015; and Southbridge in 2016. Southbridge and Holyoke are now the worst-performing and second-worst-performing school districts in the state, according to DESE’s most recent district rankings. Following an initial uptick, Lawrence has been on the decline and is now back in the lowest 6% of districts.
Schools taken over by DESE have fared no better. DESE declared four schools “chronically underperforming” (CUP) in 2013 and has had full operational control since that time. Nine years later, no CUP school has exited that status, with DESE saying that not enough progress has been made to warrant release.
Boston is doing better than the three DESE-controlled receivership districts on the metrics that matter to DESE. BPS has outperformed the three districts on the MCAS in both ELA and Math, at both the elementary and secondary levels, both before and during the pandemic. It also has higher graduation rates and teacher retention rates than the three receivership districts.
Given these facts, why is Boston being singled out for possible receivership or state intervention? Many observers have noticed that the new push for state control happens to coincide with the growing political power of people of color in the city. The push also follows a referendum in which 80% of Boston residents voted for an elected school committee. If the state wants to be anti-racist, the first step will be to show some respect for communities of color and acknowledge that they may understand the needs of their children better than outside state bureaucrats who have failed to deliver on promised results in other communities.
Like any school district in the state, Boston has room for improvement. But top-down, punitive, and ineffective state interventions that wrest control from parents and local communities are not the answer. Instead, our schools need stable leadership, consistent evidence-based policies, adequate staffing and resources, and educational solutions that come from our educators, families, and students.