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Question of a state takeover of BPS stirs debate

Boston Mayor Michelle Wu was joined on May 12 at a press conference outside the McKinley Elementary School in the South End by Boston Public Schools Superintendent Brenda Cassellius (standing next to the mayor ) and, from left, School Committee Chair Jeri Robinson, Chief of Operations Dion Irish, and Boston Teachers Union president Jessica Tang, along with BPS community members.David L. Ryan/Globe Staff

Receivership is not a cure-all, but it enables key gains

The Globe’s story about state receivership falls short of a full analysis (“Results lag on state takeovers of schools,” Page A1, May 16). Receivership is not a cure-all, but it enables important improvements.

Here is a remarkable truth: A Lawrence diploma signals the fulfillment of more rigorous academic requirements than a Boston diploma. Every high school graduate in Lawrence, for example, meets the standards of MassCore, a program of study intended to align high school coursework with college and workforce expectations (this was true even before Lawrence went into receivership). In Boston only 37 percent meet this state benchmark, and that includes exam school students.


Any assessment of receivership should include increases in graduation rates in Lawrence and Holyoke, a life-changing difference for thousands of students. Lawrence’s dropout rate was cut nearly in half. Holyoke nearly doubled its MassCore completion rate. Lawrence brought more students into full-inclusion classrooms, while Southbridge built a therapeutic high school for students with significant needs. There are real MCAS gains: In Lawrence, the percentage of 10th graders scoring proficient or better in English language arts increased from 48 percent to 74 percent from 2010 to 2018.

Successful strategies deployed by receivers could be implemented in Boston without a state takeover. The point is that they haven’t been. Families have been waiting for generations. Receivership creates the conditions for changes that benefit students. There may be other strategies, but no one at Boston Public Schools or City Hall has offered solutions on par with receivership’s powers.

With or without state receivership, Boston’s students and families deserve a real plan and a legitimate promise of transformational change, regardless of its label.

Mary Tamer


The writer is a former Boston School Committee member and the state director for Democrats for Education Reform.

Those closest to learners should be ones driving district improvement

I wish white men would stop dictating from the sidelines what should happen to improve Boston Public Schools, whether they be a former state education secretary, head of the Pioneer Institute, charter school founder, or state education commissioner (“Partnerships, not a state takeover, are what will save Boston Public Schools,” Paul Reville, Opinion, May 18). Yes, I am also a white man. But I believe the people closest to learners — educators and community members, many of them people of color — should be the ones driving district improvement.


I agree with Reville that BPS improvement should be locally led, aided by a partnership with state and local agencies. However, I disagree with his suggestion that the state should sign an agreement with the mayor over parts of the district using state takeover powers.

Reville acknowledges that the receivership model he created while education secretary had “mixed results” in Holyoke and Southbridge. Even Lawrence’s state takeover, which Reville calls “exemplary,” stumbled. Today, Lawrence is the 16th lowest-performing district out of 286 (Boston fares only slightly better, at 24th). These cities have been denied representation, largely because of white men in power who think they know better than communities of color.

Another white man — then-mayor Ray Flynn — ushered in 30 years of a mayoral-appointed Boston School Committee just as the Black community gained school committee representation. Boston is now majority people of color, and the state’s only municipality without an elected school committee. Mayoral control brought a revolving door of superintendents with no accountability or transparency. Last fall, 99,000 Bostonians voted for an elected school committee. It’s time for an elected Boston School Committee that works with Mayor Michelle Wu, the community, and partnerships Reville calls for to improve our schools.


Dan French


The writer a president of the board of Citizens for Public Schools.

Best hope is to make Mayor Wu the receiver

With three decades of direct experience with the Boston Public Schools, as an active parent and as the director of an organization that partnered directly with the BPS during the successful years under superintendent Thomas Payzant, I both agree and disagree with Paul Reville’s piece against receivership. He is right that partnerships with other agencies are crucial if BPS is to be able to educate every student. He is wrong, however, in that his solution fails to address the crucial aspect of accountability.

While receivership has a mediocre record, there has never been a receivership in which the mayor was given the authority. BPS is so irretrievably broken, so dysfunctional, that it is unable to focus on its essential mission. The last, best hope is to make Mayor Michelle Wu the receiver, formally advised by a group of parents and experts. With full power, she could attract a leader with a successful record in leading an urban district. She would be accountable to the voters and the community for the well-being of their children and to taxpayers for the spending of the largest item in the city’s budget. Anything less is too little too late for our children.


Ellen Guiney


The writer is the former executive director of the Boston Plan for Excellence. The views expressed here are her own and do not represent the position of the organization.