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There’s another way to measure schools’ performance

Brighton High Debate en Español team members Manuel Coronado and Valeria Pereira.Shelby Lum

Thank you for the July 29 video feature on BostonGlobe.com about Brighton High School’s debate team “ ‘My voice matters’: Brighton Debate en Español team gives students a platform to grow.” The students’ deep understanding, careful thinking, and dedicated effort were inspiring.

Since July 15, I have read eight stories in the Globe on the Boston Public Schools. In those, Brighton is frequently mentioned alongside English High (where I’ve taught since 2012), Madison Park, and other high schools. These articles repeatedly describe these schools as “struggling” (six times), low or “lowest performing” (six times), or “underperforming” (three times). One article mentioned us in reference to the recent state report on BPS, described as “blistering.” Another column cited the view that the city’s non-exam schools “aren’t very good.”


Yes, selected data such as test scores could support this story of our schools and, by extension, the students, families, educators, and partners who make up our communities. And quickly comparing that data with more selective and privileged schools would seem to indicate problems.

But Brighton’s debaters showed us a different story: one of high performance, excellence, and achievement in spite of struggle.

Similarly, state observers at English High — the same observers who produced the “blistering” report on BPS — gave us the highest rating in three areas of teaching and learning, and the second-highest rating for the fourth. All of English’s scores were between 11 percent and 33 percent higher than the district’s overall. In part, this explains (as one example of performance) why our graduation rates rose 16 percent in the past two years and now meet the district average.

Anyone who wants to see exemplary education saw it on Ramon Trinidad’s debate team. Anyone who wants to meet high-performing students have examples in Valeria Pereira, Manuel Coronado, and their teammates. Anyone who wants to see innovative, impactful instruction can find it every day at English High.


But that requires deeper understanding, more careful thinking, and better effort than being satisfied to simply look at some numbers and settle for repeated adjectives such as “struggling” and “low-performing,” which don’t portray the true picture of what our youth are capable of and are vividly accomplishing.

Frank Swoboda