CPS Statement on Boston’s Dearborn School

Citizens for Public Schools calls on the Boston School Committee to keep its promise to the Dearborn School community to open the new Dearborn building as a Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics school for students in grades 6 to 12.

The community fought for the new building, and deserves the new building. Without the tenacious, seven-year community campaign, the money for the school building might not have been made available. Although it may never have been spelled out that the Dearborn would remain a district school, that was the understanding of all involved. If the new building is now given to a Horace Mann operator, it will be much more difficult for students from the area to gain admission and reap the benefits.

The Dearborn has a hard-working, skilled staff and dedicated students. The school’s student growth scores are above those for Boston and slightly above state averages. To the limited extent that MCAS scores are the measure of learning, the Dearborn is more effective than most Massachusetts schools. Students at the Dearborn have better growth scores than similar students around the state. It is true now, as of the most recent MCAS scores on the state website. There is no reason to hand the Dearborn over to a charter organization, especially one with no experience in this grade level and one that has yet to prove itself at any grade level. In fact, the Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative Charter School has no MCAS record at all since it will admit its first third graders this coming school year.

We recognize the real threat of state takeover if the Dearborn is not handed over to a charter organization. Last year, the Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education took over four community schools. One of them was above the state average in MCAS student growth scores and a second was close to average. The commissioner does not seem to make scientific use of data before making these decisions. Therefore, we cannot assume that the quality of the Dearborn will prevent a takeover next year.

However, if community members, elected officials and school leaders take a stand for keeping the city’s promise to the community and saving this effective school, the school can be protected. The decision as to which schools the state will take over is not determined by any formula. It is the commissioner’s subjective call. With several newly appointed members of the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, which has the final say in the matter, it is too soon to conclude that last year’s pattern will be repeated. There is no reason to surrender this new building in advance.

We support the parents, teachers, and students who want to turn the Dearborn into a flagship model school for Boston. We ask the School Committee and other city officials to listen to them.

Roxbury Presbyterian Church was at the center of the seven-year campaign for the new building. When the Dearborn construction project was approved by the state School Building Authority, the Rev. Liz Walker, pastor of the Church, was quoted in the Boston Globe as saying, “People who have not known how to trust are learning now to trust promises and their own potential.”

It will be a sad day in Boston history if the Boston School Committee betrays that trust.