Testimony of Carlos Rojas Alvarez at the Oct. 21, 2014 BESE Meeting

My name is Carlos Rojas Álvarez, I am a 2012 graduate of the Boston Public Schools, an alumni staff member at Youth on Board and the Boston Student Advisory Council and co-chair of the School Equity Committee of the Boston Truth Education Coalition.

Youth on Board and the Boston Student Advisory Council were founded on the premise that when young people are engaged in the decisions that affect their lives, good things happen for them, their families and their schools and communities.

The Boston Truth Education Coalition was founded when student organizers in Boston, the Boston Teachers Union, parents and community stakeholders and advocates came into authentic partnership to lay out a collective and bold vision for public education. D riven by the work of young people and guided by teachers and parents, the coalition is currently engaged in supporting the Dearborn Middle School community in preserving a quality community school.

I’d like to speak on the Dearborn Middle School today.

Youth across the city of Boston have been inspired by the nearly unprecedented collaboration and consensus that has been brought about in fighting to keep the Dearborn Middle School rooted in its community and grounded as an excellent traditional district community school.

The Boston Public Schools, the Chair of the Boston School Committee and the School Committee, Mayor Walsh, the Boston Teachers Union, the Boston City Council and the Council’s Education Chair ALL agree on the proposal to improve the Dearborn Middle School that has been submitted to the State Department of Education by the Boston Public Schools.

And though that agreement exists across the board, we have not heard yet why the Commissioner of Education disagrees with it. So we would like to ask the following questions for the sake of transparency and dialogue and hope to get answers.

1) What are the points of disagreement from the Commissioner? If all of the Boston stakeholders agree that what the Commissioner is asking for as a counter to our proposal is NOT a research-based condition for rapid turnaround, why is he still pushing for it?

2)  What is the criteria for deciding what a “Proven Provider” is?  How are they defining “Turnaround success”?

3)  What evidence is there that any of the “Proven Providers” will be able to successfully work with the Dearborn student population when they have no experience or track record of success with SIFE students? We know that BluePrint has had a negative track record in serving ELL students in Denver, Colorado. What evidence do we have that they will perform differently here with our own ELL population at the Dearborn? We know that UP has a track record here in Boston, alright, but its one of high attrition and suspension rates. For every “proven provider” offered to us, we’d like to know what their track records with students with social-emotional disabilities/TLC students, and inclusion? What experience do they have with working with high school students, and implementing an innovative and successful STEM curriculum?

The students, the parents, the teachers and community stakeholders that are invested in the Dearborn Middle School from across the city of Boston ask for answers to all of the questions I just listed.

The community is fully behind this school and committed to supporting it to be successful. Taking it away from both the Boston Public Schools and the community stakeholders by declaring it a level 5 school would be a devastating blow. It would not be acceptable.

The school needs support. We can all agree on that. If the Department of Education really wants to help turn it around, then please listen to what the stakeholders have to say- we know what the school really needs to build on its already impressive list of accomplishments and successes, including the authentic prioritization and inclusion of youth voice and decision-making.

Thank you for your time.