Superintendent presents plan to strengthen and consolidate Boston schools
NOTE: For the most up-to-date information, visit the Pathways to Excellence page of this website.
BOSTON – Superintendent Carol R. Johnson will present to the Boston School Committee tonight details about proposals to strengthen and consolidate the Boston Public Schools (BPS) in order to carry out the district’s ambitious academic agenda.
Dr. Johnson’s Pathways to Excellence proposals include a variety of strategies to ensure high-quality schools throughout the city that prepare all children for academic and career success. The plan also addresses changing demographic and economic realities, including a decline in the school-age population as well as decreasing state, federal and private resources.
“This plan is all about providing all of our students an outstanding public education,” said Dr. Johnson. “We’ve heard from families across the city about the programs they want for their children, and these proposals enable us to offer more of what parents are asking for. Above all, we are striving to make the Boston Public Schools every parent’s first choice for their children’s education.”
The Pathways to Excellence plan:
- Creates or expands nine K-8 programs and six new grade 6-12 schools to promote educational continuity;
- Opens three new pilot schools and expands three others, creating nearly 2,000 new pilot school seats;
- Promotes “Graduation for All,” with new and expanded high school programs to reduce the dropout rate and ensure all students graduate from high school college-ready and success-bound; and
- Increases opportunities for innovation and enrichment, including music, arts and science.
To address the economic realities facing Boston Public Schools, the Superintendent’s plan includes the closing of five school buildings, as well as plans to reassign students in those schools to new K-8 programs or nearby elementary schools next year. The following school facilities would be vacated next summer:
- Elihu Greenwood Elementary School, Hyde Park
- Hamilton Elementary School, Brighton
- Higginson Elementary School, Roxbury
- P.A. Shaw Elementary School, Mattapan
- Stone Elementary School, Dorchester
The Superintendent developed the proposals based on extensive data about the viability of all programs and facilities, including: parent choices during registration, school and student achievement (MCAS, Adequate Yearly Progress, etc.), facilities condition, utilization rates, anticipated repair costs, availability of programs by neighborhood, and other factors.
The plan is estimated to control spending by reducing costs by nearly $13.8 million over the next five years, including more than $4.7 million in transportation savings through school consolidation. In addition, the City and BPS would continue to seek state funding to support some large-scale capital projects such as the O’Bryant School of Math and Science, Quincy Upper School, Harbor 6-12 School, and Dearborn Middle School.
Elizabeth Reilinger, Chair of the Boston School Committee, commended the Superintendent for her courage and creativity in proposing a plan that invests in academic improvement while addressing economic realities.
“We are seeing cities and towns throughout the country responding to these challenging economic times simply by closing schools, but here we are undertaking something far more ambitious,” said Dr. Reilinger. “The Superintendent’s plan seizes the opportunity to bring about significant improvements to our academic programs by making better use of the resources available to us. Dr. Johnson has demonstrated that she is willing to challenge the status quo if it means doing better for our students.”
“Our Boston Public Schools system has always been a leader in urban education because we have continued to look for new ways to provide unique and interesting opportunities for our young people,” said Mayor Thomas M. Menino. “Superintendent Johnson’s plan for the future of our schools continues that tradition of innovation while not settling for business as usual. It is clear that she has spent her first year listening to parents, students, teachers, school leaders and community partners in developing this new pathway for our children’s academic success.”
Superintendent Johnson noted that Boston families have consistently requested fewer transitions for their children’s education, most notably between elementary and middle school and between middle and high school. To provide more educational continuity, the district has invested heavily in new schools and programs that span from kindergarten through grade 8. In 1995, there were only three K-8 schools in Boston; today there are 21 K-8 programs throughout the city.
The Pathways to Excellence plan includes the creation of eight new K-8 programs, as well as the expansion of an existing K-8 school to accommodate more students, resulting in over 6,000 more students enrolled in a K-8 program – a 60% increase.
- The current Beethoven and Ohrenberger elementary schools in West Roxbury would merge into a two-building K-8 campus;
- A new Edison K-8 in Brighton would serve students from the Hamilton and Garfield elementary schools in the current Edison Middle School building;
- The current Lewis Middle School building would house a new Higginson / Lewis K-8 in Roxbury, adding students from the nearby Higginson Elementary School;
- In Mattapan, the Ellison / Parks Early Education School and the Mildred Avenue Middle School would expand and merge to form Mattapan’s first K-8 school;
- Students completing grade 5 at the Grew Elementary School in Hyde Park would be guaranteed assignment to the nearby Rogers Middle School, as the two become “feeder schools”;
- The Holmes Elementary School in Dorchester would expand its inclusion model to the middle grades, forming the Holmes K-8 School; and
- The King Middle School in Dorchester, housed this year in a temporary location during renovations, would return to its space as the new Martin Luther King Jr. K-8 School. Students from the neighboring Dickerman Elementary School would attend the new King K-8, while the Dickerman building is converted to the new home of the East Zone Early Learning Center.
The plan also eases the transition from middle grades to high school with the creation of four new programs that span grades 6-12. In fact, three programs would offer families a seamless educational experience from kindergarten through grade 12.
The plan calls for the expansion of Boston’s innovative pilot schools network – “in-district charter schools” that have greater autonomy from union and district rules. More families would have access to pilot schools under the following proposals:
- Relocation and expansion of the popular Young Achievers K-8 School of Mathematics and Science, from Jamaica Plain to the current site of the Lewenberg Middle School in Mattapan, more than doubling the number of children served from 300 to more than 800;
- A new K-8 pilot school governed by the Boston Teachers Union (BTU), as negotiated in the last teachers’ contract, at a location to be determined;
- Two pilot schools operating a “full-inclusion” model expanding to the high school level, offering integrated special education and regular education classrooms through grade 12: the Harbor School in Dorchester (expanding to 6-12) and the Lyon School in Brighton (expanding to K-12, using the adjacent Garfield school building);
- TechBoston Academy in Dorchester, now a pilot high school, expanded to serve middle school students in grades 6-8; and
- The Timilty Middle School in Roxbury, exploring conversion to a Horace Mann Charter School (in-district) as an Early College Middle / High School offering dual enrollment with area colleges.
To eliminate the dropout rate and ensure every student graduates from high school, Dr. Johnson has proposed a variety of strategies to strengthen and expand offerings at the high school level, each providing rigorous instruction, safety net services for students falling behind, and enrichment opportunities. They include:
- Two new single-gender schools in Dorchester serving students in grades 6 through 12: a Young Men’s Public Service Academy and a Young Women’s Leadership Academy;
- A new Transition / Truancy Center to support students who have dropped out or been chronically absent and are now returning to school, including credit recovery and counseling services;
- A Newcomers Academy for English Language Learners who enter the Boston Public Schools after the school year has begun;
- Extensive renovation of the John D. O’Bryant School of Mathematics and Science in Roxbury, to ensure the exam school meets accreditation standards; and
- New programs to strengthen The English High School in Jamaica Plain, including an academic focus on environmental science, the TeachBoston program, and a citywide marching band.
Other proposals include:
- Creation of International Baccalaureate at two Boston public high schools;
- Opening of a new public Montessori School in East Boston, Roxbury or Mission Hill; and
- Conversion of an East Boston school to a two-way bilingual school, educating native English and native Spanish speakers in both languages.
Superintendent Johnson and the School Committee also will consider several options related to transportation policies that would redirect some spending from buses and gasoline to academic initiatives. Among the transportation changes under consideration:
- Increasing the percentage of seats reserved for students who live near a school – those with “walk zone priority” – from 50% to 60% on all new assignments, enabling more families in every neighborhood to be assigned to schools closer to home;
- Examining the location of special education and English Language Learner programs throughout the city to place programs closer to the students who need them, reducing the need for longer bus rides; and
- Modifying policies that allow some students to receive both “walk zone priority” for student assignment and yellow bus transportation, based on the distance between their home and school.
Preliminary estimates suggest that if adopted, these policy changes could further reduce transportation spending by up to $5 million, depending on the extent and timing of implementation. Dr. Johnson noted, however, that increasing families’ access to schools near their home has educational advantages as well, including the likelihood of greater family involvement and healthier students who are walking to school.
The plan is scheduled to be presented to the School Committee tonight, followed by a series of community forums and meetings (see schedule) at which parents, students, staff and the community may review and comment on the recommendations.
The School Committee is scheduled to vote on the final recommendations on October 29, prior to the start of the school choice process for families seeking assignments for September 2009.
Throughout the month of October, updates about the process will be posted on the BPS website: http://www.bostonpublicschools.org/pathways.