CPS Statement to MA BESE on Dearborn School

Tuesday, September 23, 2014 — My name is Ann O’Halloran and for 30 years I taught in Massachusetts Public Schools  as a classroom teacher and special educator. Upon retirement, my deep concerns about NCLB, Race to the Top and other education policy changes brought me to Citizens for Public Schools where I am currently President.

I have a radical proposal for you about the Dearborn School in Boston: “Leave them alone.”

And this is why:

This year’s MCAS scores are consistent with last year’s: This school is doing well on MCAS. Last year, their median Student Growth Score in ELA was 55 and in math it was 48. This year, the ELA SGP is 48 – not quite as good but still almost at the state average. Their math SGP is 65, which is excellent and represents a huge improvement.

The Dearborn has low raw scores because almost all of the students are low income and nearly half of the students are not yet fluent in English. But they are learning English faster than students at other schools around the state:

  • 73% of Dearborn ELLs made progress in 2013 on the ACCESS for ELLs test, which is better than the statewide average of 61%.
  • The median SGP for ELL students at the Dearborn was 60 in ELA and 70.5 in Math, which is much higher than the statewide average for ELLs of 52 in ELA and 50 in math.

This is a good school according to your own data.

I know that in Massachusetts, growth scores only count for one quarter of a school’s rating. But let me quote Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, with whom I don’t often agree. In a back-to-school blog post, he wrote, “No school or teacher should look bad because they took on kids with greater challenges. Growth is what matters.”

Sadly, that is not how it is playing out in this Commonwealth.

In Massachusetts, those who work with students who haven’t yet mastered English, or who face other difficult challenges, are made to feel like failures.

The Dearborn staff is dedicated, hard-working, and highly skilled.

Just leave them alone.