Last month, a group of parents proposed a new school to the Boston Public School Committee and it deserves as much attention as the recent exam school debate that has consumed headlines over the past 12 months. Why? Because it’s a school that could rival the outcomes in exam schools yet is open to all students across the city. It could serve as a model for other open-enrollment schools in Boston and be the catalyst for a longer-term plan to redesign the district’s high schools.
The city cannot wait for a full district redesign, which could take years. Boston Public Schools should start with a school that is already in the bottom 10 percent of all schools in Massachusetts and at imminent risk of closure: Charlestown High School.
The vision for the proposed Charlestown Innovation and Inclusive High School provides college and career pathways for students; integrates higher education courses and apprenticeship programs to ensure every graduate leaves with an associate’s degree or professional certificate; and provides full, individualized support to every student. We must think innovatively about how to change the economic trajectory of our city’s students if we are to close the racial wealth gap in Boston — which means providing a huge boost of opportunity for students of color to earn an associate degree by the time they graduate high school.
This is particularly urgent given a recent earnings outcome report and that the three-year graduation rate for a two-year degree at urban two-year colleges in Massachusetts is 13.5 percent for Latinx students and 20.5 percent for Black students. This proposal is the outcome of months of conversations with hundreds of parents across Boston — parents who know firsthand how this education system is failing our children — about how to empower our students to meet the high expectations we know they can achieve.
Boston Public Schools cannot fail another generation of students while we wait to act. Fewer BPS students are earning a high school diploma, with the gap between white and Black students reaching 10 percentage points, and parents are unenrolling in BPS in the thousands. This struggle is highlighted at Charlestown High School, which has seen a 13 percent decline in enrollment over the last five years and a projected 16 percent decrease for next year, despite recently adding a seventh and eighth grade.
My daughter is an eighth-grader at the Eliot K-8 Innovation School and has attended three different schools in the past six years. In each school, the necessary accommodations for her dyslexia were not met as outlined in her IEP. Now, at the Eliot, she is thriving in language arts. I, like other parents, struggle with the decision to send my daughter to any of the open-enrollment high schools next year, in which half of the students with disabilities do not graduate.
My daughter, as well as thousands of other students like her, deserves every opportunity to succeed. That’s what our vision for CIIHS is all about, and it extends far beyond the borders of Charlestown. It is about demonstrating that it is possible to support every student. It is about setting aside the false choice between success in an exam school and failure in an open-enrollment school and embracing the idea that open-enrollment schools can be a place where students thrive.
I urge the Boston School Committee to accept our proposal, move forward with a planning phase to bring this vision to fruition, and make CIIHS the proving ground for how the school district can deliver on its promise to all students.
Fabienne Eliacin, a resident of Hyde Park, is a board member of the Collaborative Parent Leadership Action Network.