Real gains in learning by public school students often get drowned out by noisy debates about the quality of education across the nation. But below the radar screen is a district that has made real progress: Boston.
The Boston Public Schools is one of 21 major city school systems across the country that volunteer to take the rigorous National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) — the nation’s gold standard in assessing academic attainment — to yield reading and math scores on the district that can be compared to each other and to other states.
Between 2003 and 2011, the Boston Public Schools posted gains in fourth- and eighth-grade math that were about three times larger than improvements nationwide and about two times greater than gains in the average city. The city’s reading gains in the fourth grade also were about three times larger than improvements nationwide. Most impressively, the math gains in Boston are among the largest seen by any jurisdiction, state or local, in NAEP’s 30-year history.
Of course, the school system here faces enormous challenges. The city’s children continue to perform below statewide averages; significant budget cuts have become a way of life; and some low-achieving schools still need substantial overhaul. And the debate about what else needs to be done is as lively as ever.
Still, it is worth pausing, taking a deep breath, looking beyond the annual ups and downs of state testing results, and publicly celebrating what too many other public school systems across the country can’t: real improvement and the leadership in place to make more.
— MICHAEL CASSERLY
There should be plenty of discussion in Washington about how to ensure that transportation spending in the coming years also encourages innovations that will help overcome the one-person, one-car policy — which assumes every American wants to drive a car — at the heart of the highway legislation. Instead of focusing on just driving, we need to concentrate on mobility and creating better ways for people to navigate metropolitan centers.
As things stand now, the assumption that transportation policy and highway policy are essentially the same distorts the picture in favor of simply facilitating more and more driving, which carries enormous financial and environmental costs and takes a particular toll on the ability of our major cities to remain vibrant economic centers.
There is plenty of evidence to challenge such assumptions. While millions of Americans may still be stuck in traffic, the transportation habits of the rising millennial generation of 18- to 34-year-olds are fast on the move. They are increasingly forgoing car ownership, and because they have come of age in a world of social and digital media that allows them to stay connected to friends and family they drive much less than past generations.
Congress needs to think in terms of a balanced, long-term transportation policy that reflects changing priorities rather than reinforcing antiquated thinking and the unsustainable proposition that we can pave our way out of our transportation problems.
— SCOTT GRIFFITH
It’s time for the City of Boston to start giving grades to the restaurants it inspects for health code violations. It is quite common for restaurants in the city not to pass their initial annual inspection, thus requiring a reinspection.
But when diners sit down to eat in restaurants in some other localities in the United States, it’s a lot easier for them to get the scoop on how well restaurants are complying with health code requirements. The eateries are graded A, B, or C, with the grades being posted in the restaurants.
In July 2010, New York City, for instance, began requiring the city’s 24,000 restaurants in all five boroughs to publicly post letter grades that reflect their performance on health inspections. The grade card must be posted on a front window, door, or outside wall where it can be easily seen by passersby. The grades are also posted on the health department’s website.
Boston should get with the program.
— Colman M. Herman