Mass. weakens education for minorities

Jul 6, 2014 by

In the waning days of the school year, the Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education ensured that fewer urban schoolchildren will have high-quality learning opportunities come September. The board unanimously adopted a proposal from Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education Mitchell Chester that manipulates numbers and makes a mockery of the goal of rewarding improved performance.

And, yes, politics is at the heart of the move.

Under state law, the percentage of students who can attend charter schools is twice as high in school districts that perform in the bottom 10 percent statewide than it is in other districts. Until recently, performance was measured by scores on the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS). But a recent vote changed the measure to add “growth,” or a district’s rate of improvement, to the determination of that bottom-performing category.

As a result, five cities, including Worcester, Lowell and Brockton, which on average have significantly fewer than half their students performing in proficient and advanced categories, are magically no longer considered at the bottom. They will be replaced by the likes of Hawleymont, with a total enrollment of 98. The districts exiting the bottom 10 percent enroll about 68,000 students; those entering have 8,000.

The Department of Elementary and Secondary education’s “growth model” will now account for one-quarter of the determination of district performance. The problem is that the model rewards districts for growth in student performance that is all but imperceptible.

In Brockton, the percentage of students scoring proficient or advanced on MCAS went from 42 percent to 43 percent between 2011 and 2013. Worcester “grew” from 45 to 46 percent.

The victims of the change are needy students in schools that are failing and unlikely to improve any time soon. Those students will now be deprived of the opportunity to attend a high-quality charter school.

If you doubt that, just take a look at the demographics. Instead of nearly two-thirds (65 percent) of students being African-American or Hispanic in the exiting districts, there are 18 percent in the districts taking their place.

Nearly three-quarters (73 percent) of students in the school districts exiting the bottom 10 percent are low income compared with just 45 percent in districts that will take their places. Low-income students in the commonwealth’s charter schools came within two points of closing the entire 20-point wealth-based achievement gap on 2013 MCAS tests. In 2012, 20 charter schools, including many urban charters, finished first in Massachusetts on various tests. Many inner-city charters outperform even affluent suburban schools.

by Education News
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via Charles Chieppo and Jamie Gass: Mass. weakens education for minorities | Opinion – Rhode Islanders speak out on issues | Providence Journal.

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