Name: margalit
Location: Massachusetts, United States Professional writer, educational advocate, opinionated ultra liberal mother of 18 year old twins, living life in the slow lane due to hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, congestive heart failure, and diabetes.

email: margalitc at yahoo dot com

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Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Surprised? Well, not really

Newsweek magazine issued their annual "What Makes a High School Great" issue this week. It certainly did serve to illustrate my point that the public schools in my city, and in my state in general have gone straight down the toilet. Oh, I'm so not happy about this. Not surprised, but very very angry.

I live in a town that is famous for it's great schools. People move here specifically for the schools. The town consistantly advertising the wonders of our school system. And they had a right to until the past few years, when the schools have fallen on hard financial times (odd for such a rich community) combined with a school superintendent that is working way outside the box and hasn't seen what is happening to the schools. Or doesn't care. I'm not quite sure which. But that's a rant for another day.

Newton did not make 'the list' for the first time ever. In the old days, Newton was in the top 100. In the past couple of years the high schools drifted downward, ever downward, but they always were in the top 1000. This year, not even in the top 1230. To say I'm appalled would be an understatement. But I understand why the fall from grace. The schools that make the list offer more advanced placement and International Bacculariat degrees than Newton offers. That's what makes them better schools, the chance for the brightest kids to earn college credit taking advanced work. I don't agree with how the assessments are made, but I do care that AP classes are so scarce at Newton high schools that they couldn't even make the top 1000.

Massachusetts schools are in dire shape. Prop 2 1/2 has decimated our cihldren's futures. Our schools are crumbling with no money to clean up the infastructure. In the Girl's middle school, the sinks aren't connected to the pipes, the bathrooms are so disgusting that she will not use them and comes home desperate to relieve herself every single day. You can see the trouble MA schools are in by looking at both the elite public school list (not one entry in MA) and the longer list of the top 1230 high schools in the country. MA is sorely represented, and mostly by wealthy Boston burbs. In the list of schools making the biggest advances, not one school from MA. In the list showing the greatest declines, we have a representative from MA, our charter scicnce and math school in Worcester.

In our city we spend more time debating the plans for a new high school than we do talking about why our schools are failing our children. We have tenured teachers that show movies in class day after day. Not relevant movies, just plain movies. We have principals that hold pep rallys for diversity. I'm all for diversity, but do we need pep rallys for it? In our schools there is an amazing amount of wandering the halls and going to 'guidance' appointments during class time. Guidance appointments are another way for kids to hang with their friends and shoot the breeze legally. Me, I want my kids in class learning, not chatting with their buddies in the comfort of the guidance office.

When we moved here from California (Monte Vista High, #147 on "the list") my kids were shocked to see how behind the MA schools were as compared to the schools in CA. Math subjects were at least a full year behind, language arts about 2 full years. I'm not a supporter of a national curriculum, but geesh, couldn't we at least be learning similarly?

Whilst our schools deteriorate, we spend more and more time on passing the inane standardized test, the MCAS. We have a law in this state that says the kids must pass the MCAS in order to graduate. But the test is so flawed and the administration of the test often questionable. I'd much rather my children learn more and not have to skip days and days of instruction to deal with this stupid test.

Instead of focussing our shortsightedness on the MCAS, why does MA deny any gifted student an appropriate education? Why is giftedness ignored in this state. We don't have any gifted and talented magnet schools. We don't have any pullout TAG programs. We have absolutely no special education in MA for the most talented students. Does anyone besides me find this incongruous?

I can't understand how we have allowed our schools to sink this low. When I looked at "the list", the MA schools on it, apart from Boston Latin, were from extremely wealthy communities. Weston, Wellesley, Brookline, Belmont, Lincoln, Lexington all were on the list. Not up near the top, not even close, but at least they were on it. The fact that Newton was not is so destressing. What have we done to our schools? What have we done to our children's futures?
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Blogger Mama M said...

We feel your pain over here on the West. We actually moved out of the city to the burbs in large part because of the schools. I went to the public schools in the city, and they weren't in perfect shape then but now they're horrendous. How does it happen and so quickly?

3/5/06 12:42 AM  
Blogger Seraphim said...

Thats a real pity about the schools. It was the same when I lived back in England - the area I liven was quite a 'rich' one by some standards, but the schools were tragically underfunded. It makes you wonder how much kids futures are valued at these days.

Your link seemed to wander off my blogroll some how, I'll try figure out what happened, but I've popped it back on for now, anyway....


3/5/06 8:43 AM  
Blogger BSumner said...

hmmm... maybe some of those richer schools can lend our poor little k-2 school some copy paper, since it seems
we've run out and our teachers are having to purchase their own for the remainder of the school year.
Sad, really.

4/5/06 12:29 AM  

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