By many measures, the Boston schools are in crisis. Graduation rates dropped last year, while the gap between Black and white students earning diplomas more than doubled. The state last fall ordered the school district to ramp up improvement efforts at nearly three dozen low-performing schools. A Globe review revealed that fewer than one in four graduates at several Boston high schools earned college degrees. The school system’s buildings are deteriorating, and school officials can’t even keep bathrooms stocked with soap and toilet paper.
As the state wraps up its first comprehensive review of the Boston system in a decade, local officials are bracing themselves — and the public — for more bad news. Mayor Martin J. Walsh, whose administration has examined a draft of the findings, warned on public radio last week that the final version is “not going to be a real pretty report.”
The low performance of the Boston school system is propelling a growing number of state officials and other advocates to call on Massachusetts Education Commissioner Jeffrey Riley to take decisive action, even a state takeover of the entire system. Just last week, a statewide advocacy organization representing Black and Latino families pleaded with Riley and the state education board to act swiftly and aggressively.
“Mayor Walsh and Superintendent [Brenda] Cassellius do not deserve more trust or more time,” Keri Rodrigues, founding president of Massachusetts Parents United, told the state education board members. “How much longer is the state going to accept Boston’s excuses for its inability to fix its schools? How many more children do we have to lose before you take this seriously?”
Many in Boston, though, believe state receivership would be a mistake.
“I don’t even want to say the word ‘receivership’ — that would be the worse thing that could happen,” said Ruby Reyes, director of the Boston Education Justice Alliance, a coalition of Boston students, parents, and educators, characterizing the state’s record on receivership as poor. “State oversight hasn’t been helpful. I think state assistance should be resources.”