Diversity doesn’t cure failing schools
The recent Boston Globe article discussing racial segregation in Boston Public Schools (“Boston schools are becoming resegregated,” Page A1, Aug. 5) placed the issue of race front and center in the conversation regarding equity across the city. But the article oversimplifies the problem. Dispersing white students across schools that are largely black and Latino increases diversity but fails to get at the urgent need to improve schools that are underperforming.
In a follow-up story (“Some fear segregated schools will divide city,” Page A1, Aug. 6), the Globe used the example of Winship Elementary School, noting its increased racial diversity and quoting parents who are pleased to have their children attend a racially diverse school. The article fails, however, to note the school’s struggle to educate students. The school ranked in just the eighth percentile in 2016, according to a report last fall by the BPS superintendent that flagged the school as at risk for state takeover due to its poor academic performance.
We want our children to be able to read and do math while learning in diverse environments. Parents should not have to choose between one or the other. Our children deserve both.
Let’s look at the whole ecosystem of Boston schools
As a Latina, a mom of two boys soon to enter Boston’s schools, and a school leader myself, I am grateful the Globe is raising issues of segregation and race in public education. But I believe the articles miss a critical point. Parents in Boston are functioning in an ecosystem of schools, moving fluidly between public district, public charter, and Catholic schools. To get a true sense of what is going on in our city, we need to look at the whole picture.
I’m excited to be sending my son to KO (pre-kindergarten) at Sacred Heart Roslindale (as a Jewish person!). I’m compelled by the working-mom-friendly hours, the Spanish immersion program, the great teachers, and the capable leadership, all of which draw a diverse student body. Across Boston, there are schools in all sectors that appeal to families of all backgrounds. At Boston Collegiate Charter School, where I work, we have a near-even split of students of color and students who are white.
Leading a diverse school is a complex privilege. As we untangle the broader systemic issues of race, let’s also think about the importance of leadership. How can we support leaders in all sectors to inspire families of all backgrounds to join their communities? If there is one thing I’ve learned as a school leader, it’s that schools are about neighborhoods, yes, but they are also about people: passionate leaders and incredible teachers. If we ignore the important role people play in drawing families across neighborhoods, we’ll miss the point.
The writer is executive director of Boston Collegiate Charter School.
Return to a principle of excellence in every school
I began teaching in Boston during the busing era and was hired to teach in the newly established Spanish bilingual program. It was an exciting time. A time of transition, change, and social evolution. I recall three points of view on busing: One voice saying no to busing on the grounds that people had a right to send their kids to school in the own neighborhood. Another voice saying yes to busing on the grounds of social and educational equity. And a third voice saying no to busing on the grounds that busing students from one district to another was simply a cosmetic and, ultimately, ineffective way of dealing with deeper economic and social issues such as housing and wage inequality. I sang in that third chorus. And what do we find? Boston schools are again segregated. But this is also the case nationally. Most students of color study with other students of color. Most white students study with other white students (see Jonathan Kozol’s “The Shame of the Nation”).
Several years ago, I wrote an article for the Globe, “A guiding principle for all schools.” In it, I argued that in order to make education around the city of Boston more equitable academically, we needed to turn all of our schools into Latin Schools. High standards for all — failure is not an option. I offered examples of the high-level work my 8th-graders at the Edison Middle School were doing, and I suggested that every student in the BPS is capable of achieving academic excellence.
In my 30 years at the BPS, I saw, and worked with, dozens of teachers with high standards who, with patience, understanding, and a flexible and deep comprehension of their disciplines, obtained extraordinary work from their students. Shift the focus from transportation to academic excellence in each and every school.
The writer taught in the Boston Public Schools from 1975 to 2005.