Tuesday, August 07, 2018

Boston’s schools are becoming resegregated

So what?  Who is that harming?

An alarming pattern of racial segregation has re-emerged in the Boston Public School system over the last two decades, according to a Globe analysis, largely the consequence of steps taken by city and school officials to allow more students to attend schools in their neighborhoods as they did prior to court-ordered busing.

Nearly 60 percent of the city’s schools meet the definition of being intensely segregated — meaning students of color occupy at least 90 percent of the seats. Two decades ago, 42 percent of schools were intensely segregated. Many of these schools are low performing. [Surprise!]

All the while, the shifting student population is slowly creating more schools where the majority of students are white, climbing over the past two decades from two schools to five.

The resegregation of the school system, which many advocates have been monitoring with frustration for years, is raising fears that the city could wind up with the wide disparities in academic programs, enrichment opportunities, and resources that existed prior to court-ordered desegregation in the 1970s, when majority-white schools had more robust offerings than those attended mostly by black and Latino students.

“This is devastating,” said City Council President Andrea Campbell of the Globe’s findings. “Not only does there need to be a sense of urgency to address this, but there also has to be a willingness to try new things. From where I sit, it’s important for every student and family who chooses to enter the system to have a spot at a quality school, but that is not currently happening in Boston.” [A school is only as good as its students]

The majority-white schools are emerging in the same neighborhoods that had them prior to court-ordered desegregation. At the Perry K-8 in South Boston, more than 60 percent of students are white, the highest in the system, the Globe review found. The other majority-white schools are the Eliot K-8 in the North End, the Lyndon and Kilmer K-8s in West Roxbury, and the Warren-Prescott K-8 in Charlestown.

Collectively, these five schools educate about 1,400 white students, accounting for 18 percent of all Caucasians enrolled in the system. The largest number of white students in any single school in the system, about 1,125, attend Boston Latin School, filling 46 percent of seats there.

Overall, white students make up 14 percent of the school system’s enrollment, down 2 percentage points from two decades ago.

The gaps in performance and opportunities at majority-white schools and intensely segregated ones can be stark, according to the Globe review.

For instance, on the premiere of the revamped MCAS test in 2017, 52 percent of students at the Eliot met or exceeded expectations in English and 57 percent did in math, beating state averages in both subjects. At the King K-8 school, where students of color fill nearly all the seats, 8 percent of students met or exceeded expectations in English and 6 percent did in math.

Eliot parents also raise tens of thousands of dollars for Italian, music, art, robotics, and other programs. Less than a quarter of Eliot students live in poverty. By contrast, over three-quarters of students at the King school live in households receiving government assistance, making fund-raising more difficult.

In a city where the wounds of court-ordered desegregation still linger, city leaders have shown little appetite to upend the school system and create more diverse schools as part of a strategy to close gaps in achievement and educational opportunity.

When Boston overhauled its school assignment system five years ago, achieving racial balance in its schools was not even part of the equation, as then-Mayor Thomas M. Menino, school officials, and an advisory committee were intent on moving the system back to more neighborhood schools, which had defined the city prior to desegregation.

Mayor Martin J. Walsh two years ago also halted an effort to overhaul admission requirements at the city’s exam schools as tensions began flaring among families after the Globe reported that an advisory group was quietly looking at ways to increase diversity by moving beyond a strict reliance on test scores and grade-point averages.

Yet a few hundred miles away in New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio has been gaining headlines for pushing proposals to foster integration in that city’s highly segregated system. De Blasio is pushing to scrap entrance exams for the city’s elite high schools and has proposed reserving a portion of seats at high-performing schools for students with low test scores, angering scores of Asian-American and middle-class white parents.

“I think Boston is a sad case,” said Gary Orfield, co-director of the Civil Rights Project at the University of California Los Angeles. “I find that Boston is the least interested in talking about race and social issues. People want to be satisfied with the status quo and don’t want to think about the long term. . . . If you want a school system that prepares students for life, you have to think about diversity. Students need to learn how to function across racial and ethnic lines.”

While the Boston school system doesn’t have enough white students to integrate every school, the system still has enough of them to create more racially diverse schools than what currently exist, said Orfield, whose institute was formerly located at Harvard University.

But he warned, “if you begin to resegregate, it gains momentum.”


Class sizes rising in Ireland

Average class sizes rose in almost half of primary schools in the Republic last year despite an increase in teacher numbers.

The Department of Education said that 44 per cent of primary schools had higher average class sizes than in the previous year.

Data on 22,430 classrooms across the country’s 3,111 mainstream national schools indicates that those in counties along the east coast are more likely to have overcrowded classes. Large numbers of teachers have been hired over the past few years but continuing growth in the number of pupils attending primary school has meant that class sizes are still increasing in many schools.

Average sizes have risen in 42 per cent of schools compared with four years ago even though there has been a period of improved investment in the sector.

The average across the country fell to 24.5 pupils in the most recent school year from 24.7 the year before. The pupil:teacher ratio is at a record low of 15.3 pupils to each teacher, according to the Department of Education.

A spokesman for Richard Bruton, the education minister, said that nearly 2,250 extra teachers had been hired in the primary sector in the past two years, including 278 last year, bringing the total number to 22,430.

“Improvements to the staffing schedule at primary level in Budget 2016 and Budget 2018 bring the teacher allocation ratio to the lowest ever seen at primary level,” he said.

“The central aim of the Action Plan for Education is to make the Irish education and training service the best in Europe within a decade.”

Another 643 primary teaching posts are being created for the forthcoming year, when the number of students in primary schools is expected to peak at almost 568,000.

Just over 563,400 were enrolled in national schools across the country in the most recent year.

The analysis shows that schools along the east coast are far more likely to have above-average class sizes than the rest of the country. Almost three quarters of schools in Louth and about two thirds of those in Kildare and Meath have class sizes above the national average.

Other counties where more than half of schools have above-average sizes are Carlow, Waterford, Wicklow, Wexford and Dublin. In contrast, less than a third of schools in Mayo, Clare and Sligo have average classes in excess of 25 students, while only one in five in Roscommon have above-average numbers.

The Irish National Teachers Organisation said that Ireland remained well above the EU average of 20 pupils per classroom. A spokeswoman said that meeting this figure was a priority. “We know that children do better with smaller class sizes, particularly at younger ages. It’s an import issue for child education and welfare,” she said.

The spokeswoman said that last year’s reduction in average class sizes “didn’t go nearly far enough, as is clear with figures increasing in a large number of schools”.

She claimed demographic changes that will mean fewer pupils attend primary school from next year onwards presented a great opportunity to lower average class sizes further.

“The average class size will come down if the government maintains the current level of teachers into the future,” she said.

The school with the highest average class size in the country is Scoil Mobhí in the Dublin suburb of Glasnevin which has almost 260 pupils.

The gaelscoil, which has been involved in a campaign against the proposed use of its grounds as a construction site for the new Dublin metro system, had an average of 32.4 students per class last year.

The national school in Abbeydorney, Kerry, had one classroom with 42 pupils last year — the largest in the country.


NZ High school students horrified to find security cameras installed INSIDE their toilets overlooking urinals and changing areas

A mistake?  Maybe!

Students have discovered video cameras installed inside school bathrooms, suspiciously overlooking urinals and changing areas.

Tauraroa Area High School students in New Zealand's north were disgusted to discover two surveillance cameras fitted in the grade 9-11 bathrooms of both female and male students.

The NZHerald reported the school's principal, Grant Burns, believed the cameras were mistakenly added to the bathrooms.

They were commissioned, he allegedly wrote in an email, to remain at the entrance of the bathrooms, overlooking an area in the vicinity holding student lockers.  

'I have already let a number of staff, parents and students know this. Steps have already been put in place to remedy this,' he said in the email.

Year 11 student Aart Lewis spoke up on behalf of his cohort, telling the publication he felt 'pretty disgusted because, in the boys toilets, [the camera] looks straight onto the urinal.'  

'And the girls toilets, they all get changed for netball and after school sports in those toilets,' he said.

He said it was baffling how the mistake was even made in the first place.

'Surely the people installing it would question if it was meant to go in the bathrooms or not because it is not really right,' he said.

He also raised a concern regarding the time in which it took the school to respond to student complaints.

When their claims weren't being heard, male students took it upon themselves to rectify the situation, covering the camera in their bathroom with toilet paper.

On three separate occasions, they claim staff removed this toilet paper, suggesting a staff awareness that the cameras were lodged in the wrong positions.

The speed in which the toilet paper was removed, led Lewis and some of his fellow students to the assumption the cameras were on, and monitoring activities.

The school, which hosts students aged five through to eighteen, assured concerned parents the incident would be rectified as soon as possible.


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