Few Massachusetts urban high schools meeting the needs of minority and low income students

BOSTON — November 20, 2003 — With few exceptions, urban high schools that serve high proportions of low-income and minority youth are failing to meet the academic needs of their students, according to a new study released by the Center for Education Research and Policy at MassINC. Using a range of indicators, some of which include: attendance rates, drop-out rates, college plan data, and MCAS scores, Head of the Class: Characteristics of Higher Performing Urban High Schools in Massachusetts identifies just one Bay State high school as “high performing:” University Park Campus School in Worcester.

“Too few urban high schools are meeting the learning needs of low-income and minority youth,” said Paul Reville, executive director of the Center for Education Research and Policy at MassINC. “This challenge should command the immediate attention of policymakers and researchers.”

The report identifies eight other non-selective urban high schools that are on the road to success in helping their students achieve at high levels (the study’s parameters were 50% minority and 45% low-income). The eight schools are:

  1. Academy of the Pacific Rim, Hyde Park, Boston
  2. Accelerated Learning Lab School (ALL), Worcester
  3. Boston Arts Academy, Boston
  4. Fenway High School, Boston
  5. Lynn Classical High School, Lynn
  6. Media & Technology Charter High School (MATCH), Boston
  7. Sabis International Charter School, Springfield
  8. Somerville High School, Somerville

The report, which was made possible by a generous grant from the Trefler Foundation details five common practices which were found across all nine schools:

  1. High standards and expectations: Administrators communicate high standards and expectations for students and teachers
  2. A culture of personalization: Each school has been able to develop a culture that personalizes instruction, while offering significant supports for teachers and students
  3. Small learning communities: Size is critical to students and teachers forming strong, trusting relationships, and the ability of teachers to respond to student needs
  4. Data-driven curricula: These schools respond to data on student performance – including those that put a heightened focus on math and literacy
  5. Strong community relationships: Parents, corporate partners, and higher education institutions provide important supports.

The small number of schools identified in the report points to the existence of a persistent and far-reaching achievement gap, despite the important gains made in student learning since the Massachusetts Education Reform Act was passed in 1993.

“Tens of thousands of students are systematically under-educated in Massachusetts. This should be a top school reform priority,” said Reville.

In addition to releasing Head of the Class, the Center for Education Research and Policy at MassINC is co-sponsoring a half-day public event with Jobs for the Future, the Center for Collaborative Education, the Trefler Foundation, and FleetBoston Financial. The event will focus on the report’s findings and take place on Thursday, November 20 from 8:30 AM – 11:30 PM at FleetBoston Auditorium, 100 Federal Street, Boston.

“Since we started making grants seven years ago, the Trefler Foundation’s primary interest has been identifying and supporting methods of improving the quality of education in Boston’s high schools,” said Linda Kutsch, president of the Foundation. “We could not be more pleased that MassINC and the Center for Education Research and Policy have chosen to turn their careful attention to this topic, and we are very pleased to be able to support their work.”

About the Center for Education Research and Policy at MassINC: The Center’s mission is to develop a public agenda that informs and promotes significant improvement of public education in Massachusetts. Our work is motivated by a vision of an education system that creates the opportunity to educate every child to be successful in life, citizenship, employment and life-long learning. Applying nonpartisan, independent research, journalism and civic engagement, the Center is creating a civil space to foster thoughtful public discourse to inform and shape effective policy.

About MassINC: MassINC is a nonpartisan, evidence-based organization. Our mission is to develop a public agenda for Massachusetts that promotes the growth and vitality of the middle class. Our governing philosophy is rooted in the ideals embodied in the American Dream: equality of opportunity, personal responsibility and a strong commonwealth.

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