Greetings from the land of the Massholes, where chahter rhymes with wicked smahter and we like our debates about public education the old-fashioned way: fact free. Did you know, for example, that in the most recent round of international tests, African American students in Massachusetts outscored Finnish students in math? No? Chances are you missed this information—because you live in Massachusetts, where it went completely unreported.
The rubber stamp gang
To experience this fact-free environment in all of its glory, I’d suggest you fire up the family mini van and take a little road trip to Malden, where our esteemed edu-officials will soon engage in the yearly ritual known as ‘rubber stamping excellence.’ Members of the Board of Education will spend the next two days “deliberating,” “asking questions,” and deploying the word “achievement” as noun, verb and adjective. (Note: the guy in the back is NOT sleeping; he’s reflecting deeply on the achievement gap.) And after two days of mystery, suspense and hard-charging debate, the Bay State will likely have five new academies of innovation and 11 expanded institutions of excellence.
Familiarity breeds excellence
To premium EduShyster readers, many of these ‘pre-approved’ contenders will be familiar. There is the Turkish-run science school which is absolutely not connected to the Gulen network. And there is our fave local miracle school, UP Academy, which will soon be working its particular brand of magic (presto, chango, students are gone-o) at one of Boston’s largest elementary schools. And don’t forget City on a Hill, the “high-flying” charter high school that specializes in a unique brand of college-prep. Let’s pay a call, shall we?
Attrition is just another way to say ‘I love you’
When we last encountered City on a Hill, which is awaiting the state stamp of approval to expand its brand with new schools in Boston and New Bedford, the mayor of the latter city had raised some, ahem, difficult questions about the school and its, ahem, effectiveness in preparing kids for college. Like the fact that COH officials are predicting that 65% of the students at the new charter high school will leave the school before their senior year. Or that pesky business about City on a Hill students having lower AP scores, generally considered the “gold standard” of college prep measurement, than students at union-stifled public high schools in Boston and New Bedford. And may I add, somewhat gratuitously, that City on a Hill has an out-of-school suspension rate of 43.6%?
Now here’s something that will make absolutely no difference in a fact-free environment: new data that seems to confirm that whatever City on a Hill is preparing students for, it probably isn’t college. In recent weeks, state education officials released yet another trove of data for journalists to ignore, including SAT and AP participation and performance from 2010-2012. The more recent student data for City on a Hill is even worse than the last batch. In 2012, for example, not a single student at City on a Hill scored above a 1 or a 2 on an AP test in any subject. Meanwhile the handful of City on a Hill students who took AP tests on the fiercely urgent STEM subjects of calculus and computer science scored too low to record any score.
One thumb way up
Reader: savor these tidbits, and, while you’re at it, spend some time perusing City on a Hill’s sub par SAT data too. But know that this is likely the last you’ll hear of it. After all, in a fact-free environment why have any discussion about whether a charter high school that alleges to be preparing kids for college is actually preparing kids for college? I vote that we let City on a Hill open another school. Aw hell—let ’em open two schools. Did I mention that college readiness is the civil rights issue of our time?
Send comments, tips and drink recipes to firstname.lastname@example.org.