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Report calls for expansion of METCO program

By Catherine Cloutier Globe Staff 

A report released this week called for the expansion and continued support of the state’s Metropolitan Council for Educational Opportunity program, better known as METCO.

The report, produced by the Pioneer Institute for Public Policy Research, a right-leaning think tank, sought the broadening of the program to include school districts in the state’s “Gateway Cities.” It also proposed the reworking of its state funding to incorporate METCO within Chapter 70 education funding so it is not adversely affected by inflation.

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Because of inflation, state per pupil funding for the program is actually down, the report said. It is also unevenly distributed. Districts hosting METCO students received anywhere from $5,000 and $17,000 per student in combined state and METCO funding.

Despite this, the data presented in the report found that METCO students at suburban schools score higher on the MCAS exams. Higher percentages of them graduate from high school in four years. They are more likely to enroll in college.

These successes were echoed in a 2013 report by the state’s Executive Office of Education, which found that METCO students surpassed the state averages in graduation rates and college attendence.

According to the state’s report, its “findings suggest that the opportunity to learn in different educational environments coupled with the targeted support provided by METCO, Inc. is having positive impact on METCO students’ levels of educational achievement, their aspirations, and their levels of educational attainment.”

Currently, the METCO program places about 3,300 Boston and Springfield students in 37 suburban school districts. About 10,000 others remain on wait lists for the program.

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METCO students make up about 4 percent of the total Boston and Springfield district enrollment. They make up 2.5 percent of the combined enrollment of the schools that received them.

The need for this program increases as the state’s schools become more segregated and racial achievement gaps widen, the Pioneer Institute report argued.

The amount of racial segregation in the urban schools in Boston, Worcester, Lawrence, Lowell, and Brockton has steadily grown since 1990, according to the Pioneer Institute. In those cities, more than 20 percent of Hispanic and African-American students attend schools where 90 to 100 percent of the student body are racial minorities.

This segregation translates to disparities in educational opportunities, the report found. Within the Boston public schools, advanced placement classes in the district are mostly taken by white students, whereas schools with high dropout rates had large nonwhite and low-income student populations.


Catherine Cloutier can be reached at catherine.cloutier@globe.com
Follow her on Twitter at @cmcloutier.