We didn’t need a multi-part, multimedia series of reports to know the Boston Public Schools fail to deliver a first-rate education to many students. Achievement scores and college completion rates among its graduates are more than enough to make that point. But the approach taken by a Boston Globe project that was published on Sunday brilliantly underscored just how dismal things are in the state’s largest school district.
The year-long effort focused on valedictorians from Boston high school graduating classes of 2005 through 2007. These are not students in the muddled middle or below, whose struggles after high school might be expected, but the cream of the crop at each high school, the students who would be expected to go on and shine in pursuit of college degrees and successful careers.
The reality, sadly, was often far from that hopeful scenario.
The paper tracked 93 of the 113 valedictorians from those years. One of four did not complete a bachelor’s degree within six years of finishing high school, 40 percent are earning less than $50,000 a year, and four have found themselves as far from the top as one could get — by experiencing bouts of homelessness.
Just 14 percent of those who shared salary data with the paper now earn more than $100,000 a year. That compares to 35 percent of valedictorians earning more than that amount in a survey of Boston suburban communities.
The top-of-their-class graduates faced all sorts of hurdles after high school. The story of Michael Blackwood, valedictorian of Hyde Park High School’s class of 2006, captures the range of them, including family turmoil and financial stresses and an overwhelmed feeling that he was not ready for the rigor of academics at Boston College, where he got a full ride scholarship.
“I felt like Hyde Park High School did nothing, really, to prepare you for a school like Boston College,” he told the Globe.
Blackwood ultimately got an online degree from a New Jersey college after becoming a father and losing his scholarship to BC. He’s now a sergeant in the army.
The Boston story is actually a tale of two entirely different systems, with valedictorians from the city’s three selective-admission exam high schools generally doing well. It’s at the system’s low-achieving open enrollment high schools, which a report last year ripped, where even the top-performing students struggle to succeed after graduation.
There are all sorts of reasons that no doubt contribute to the troubling pattern with Boston grads, including the cost of higher ed and lack of support there for students who are often the first in their family to attend college.
One glaring shortcoming in Boston: The district does not require students to complete the standard core academic curriculum the state considers a necessary foundation for college success. It’s a set of courses that more than 90 percent of other students in the state are required to take to graduate, including those in Chelsea and Lawrence, districts that, like Boston, serve overwhelmingly low-income, minority student populations.
Perhaps most damning, the Globe says, talk by recently-fired superintendent Tommy Chang of requiring Boston students to follow the MassCore curriculum sequence was met with pushback within the system from those who worried it would drag down the district’s graduation rate.
That is what George W. Bush called the “soft bigotry of low expectations.”
Mark Culliton of the nonprofit College Bound Dorchester sounds a similar note. “Unless and until we deal with our race issues and our legacy and reality, this is never going to change,” he tells Globe columnist Adrian Walker in reaction to the project. “This is about expectations. It’s about different expectations depending on how people look.”
The state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education in New Bedford approves a novel charter school expansion plan for New Bedford. State education leaders say the approach, which has been embraced by New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell, has merit in other communities. It still faces legislative and community hurdles, however. (CommonWealth)
Gov. Charlie Baker files legislation that would make it illegal for drivers to use their phones except in hands-free mode and would allow police to pull over cars in which motorists are not using their seatbelts. Currently, police can only pull over vehicles if they are stopped for other violations. (CommonWealth)
The Baker administration will unveil its proposal today to revamp the state’s education funding formula in conjunction with rolling out its fiscal 2020 spending plan. (Boston Globe) The Massachusetts Budget & Policy Center releases a video explainer on the state of education funding.
Former House speaker Sal DiMasi, who served five years in federal prison on corruption charges, says he might take up lobbying. It would make him the third straight House speaker to be convicted of a federal felony who then turned to the legal influence-peddling game. (Boston Globe)
Byron Rushing, who lost his South End House seat in last September’s Democratic primary, reflects on his 36 years in the Legislature. (Bay State Banner)
After Methuen Mayor James Jajuga failed to convince the city council to restore $1.8 million in funding to the police department that was cut last summer, the city will move ahead with plans to lay off dozens of police officers. (Eagle Tribune)
Returning from a visit to supervised injection facilities in Montreal and Toronto, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh and Cambridge Mayor Marc McGovern both see potential for those types of facilities, but given existing legal hurdles neither expects action anytime soon. (WBUR News )
The Steamship Authority of Woods Hole, Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket is seeking to fill several high-level positions after a December report listed operational problems. (Cape Cod Times)
Historic markers placed around the North Shore nearly nine decades ago have gone missing over the years, and one Revere resident estimates only about half of the 275 signs placed around the state are still up in their original locations. (Gloucester Daily Times)
Worcester and other cities are auctioning off tax liens, which may increase the likelihood that residents will lose their homes to foreclosure. (New England Center for Investigative Reporting/WGBH News)
The Supreme Court ruled that a Trump administration ban on transgender military service members can take effect while cases challenging the rule work their way through courts. (New York Times)
US Rep. Richard Neal says his staff is laying the legal groundwork for seeking President Trump’s tax returns. (Berkshire Eagle)
Globe columnist Renee Graham slams the white Kentucky high school students at the center of the controversy over a confrontation involving a Native American Vietnam veteran, even as it becomes clear that initial reports of what took place near the Lincoln Memorial on Monday not accurate. (New York Times)
WGBH News tries to explain to fourth graders in Abington why large portions of the federal government have been shut down for more than a month.
A cannabis advocacy group says 79 percent of the host agreements reached thus far for marijuana businesses violate a state cap on payments that local communities can extract from the new sector. (Boston Globe)
The state Department of Public Utilities is fining National Grid $750,000 for not properly responding to a 2017 windstorm that knocked out power for 330,000 homes, including many on the South Shore. (Patriot Ledger)
Home prices in the state continued to rise in 2018, but sales numbers slowed. (Boston Globe)
The state Board of Higher Education is considering new safeguards to provide students with earlier warning of colleges facing fiscal crises. (Boston Herald)
Massachusetts General Hospital unveils a $1 billion expansion plan that would add two new 12-story towers to its already sizable footprint. (Boston Globe)
The nonprofit planning a sculpture on Boston Common to honor Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King, who met in Boston, has delayed until February or March an announcement of the winning design. (Boston Globe)
With the extreme cold over the last several days, power generators in New England used a lot more oil and coal, which generate more greenhouse gas emissions. (CommonWealth)
Worcester starts to revamp its trash collection process, charging more for garbage bags and shifting to bags rather than bins for recycled items. (Telegram & Gazette)
MGM Springfield, which isn’t meeting its own projections, isn’t having as big an impact on its Connecticut rivals as expected. (MassLive)
The state Probation Department is partnering with the Lowell nonprofit UTEC in a pilot study that steers young offenders who are on probation to positions with UTEC-run small businesses. (Boston Globe)
A Charlestown man is facing kidnapping charges after police found a missing 23-year-old woman in his apartment after an intense search. (Boston Globe)
A computer program used nationally by law enforcement to predict the likelihood that someone arrested for a crime will commit future crimes is biased against minorities. (ProPublica)
The man who allegedly killed Yarmouth police Sgt. Sean Gannon is now charged with assault and battery after being accused of slashing another inmate with a razor. (Cape Cod Times)
A GateHouse Media editorial on the benefits of a teen minimum wage receives pushback. (Dig Boston)
Former New York Times columnist and all-around funny man Russell Baker dies at age 93. (New York Times)
Nathan Glazer, a “label-defying” public intellectual who moved from the left to the right and then ended his life closer to the political center, died in his Cambridge home on Saturday at age 95. (Washington Post)