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Last year, MCAS results for the Boston Public Schools revealed continued concern for students’ abilities to meet the academic demands of English and mathematics across the board (grades 3-8, 10), with each respective grade performing well below the state average. Results from the science & technology exams alone revealed scores shockingly beneath proficiency levels. Among 10th graders, who beginning in 2010 will be required by the Department of Education to pass one of the four MCAS science exams to graduate, 92% finished below accepted levels, with 54% receiving “warning/failing” scores.
According to the state’s first report on four-year graduation rates that was released in 2007, only 59.1% of students who enrolled in a Boston Public School in September 2002 completed their graduation requirements “on time,” compared to 80% statewide. While nearly 2,000 students dropped out of the Boston Public Schools in 2007, of those who graduated and moved on to college, many arrived unprepared for the coursework. As many as 70% of graduates of three high schools in Boston required remedial classes due to poor scores on college placement exams. The city continues to lose more than 500 teachers a year — approximately 12% of its workforce — with an overemphasis on MCAS preparation and its effects on teachers’ instructional techniques being considered a possible cause for such turnover. As Stanley Pollack, Executive Director of the Center for Teen Empowerment, recently wrote in an editorial in The Boston Globe, some view the exam as having created a “one-dimensional classroom environment” that “has caused many bright and talented teachers to leave the profession.”
The Catholic School Leadership Institute at Emmanuel College Over the past two years, the Carolyn A. Lynch Institute and the Catholic Schools Office of the Archdiocese of Boston have worked closely together to plan and provide professional development opportunities for teachers and administrators serving students in inner-city Catholic schools. To date, more than 640 Catholic school teachers have participated in courses emphasizing content and instructional techniques in writing and mathematics as well as techniques of standards-based instruction and behavior management. A major initiative in the principles and techniques of standards-based teaching and learning involved 280 teachers and principals. These workshops focused on the design and delivery of instruction to achieve high standards of performance among all students. The Catholic School Leadership Institute at Emmanuel College was designed to build standards-based expertise and leadership among principals, especially in their roles as supervisors of instruction. “The program helps teachers identify the most essential learning outcomes for their students and provides instructional techniques and assessment tools that will help children achieve at high levels,” said Sally Dias, Vice President of Programs and
One need only review the overwhelming statistics to grasp the growing need for improved educational standards in Boston schools:
lot,” said Mejia. “It showed us how college classes work.” Classmate Jasmine Taylor, who completed the “Critical Inquiry” course in the spring, felt that her experience with the Dual Enrollment Program provided invaluable insight into the importance of earning a college education one day. “It proved to me that I need to stay on track,” she said. Fenway graduate Denise Wilkins, now a student at Smith College, credits her participation in the program for her current academic accomplishments. “Emmanuel College was the start to my pursuit in furthering my education…I thank Fenway for collaborating with Emmanuel and allowing me to be a subject in this [program] because it changed my life for the better,” she said. “Attending Emmanuel brought light to my future goals, aspirations and achievements.”
is provided throughout the course, with students required to meet once a week with Fenway teachers to review work and discuss any challenges they may be facing. Courses that students have participated in since the program’s inception have varied significantly, with students taking part in classes such as “College Algebra”, “PreCalculus”, “Forensic Chemistry”, “Modern World History”, “Politics and Religion” and “Social Psychology.” And interest in the program continues to grow. Last spring, Fenway enrolled its largest cohort of students to date, with nearly 30 students registering for courses for each semester. Additionally, students from West Roxbury Education Complex and North Cambridge Catholic High School were invited to join the program, bringing overall registration to 113 courses — a contribution of more than $600,000 in waived tuition by Emmanuel. “The program allows students to gain confidence in their ability to do college work — students that may not have seen themselves as college bound,” said Lazarus. “Because we are such a small school, we don’t have the resources to provide a wide range of courses. We don’t have Advanced Placement or an honors program. The philosophy has always been to have heterogeneous classes, yet at the same time, we want our students to get into as competitive a college as they can.” She continued, “Students who demonstrate they can do well at Emmanuel gain one more piece of their high school transcript that is critically important to them. And from our standpoint, that is the single most important aspect.” The chance to widen their world and feel a part of a college campus is a plus for many Fenway students. Juan Mejia and Bang Pham, for instance, felt welcomed as part of the Emmanuel community while completing the “Introduction to Literature” course together during the spring. The Fenway juniors found that once they overcame their initial apprehensions they were able to immerse themselves in the challenge. “At first it was all very new to us, we didn’t know what to expect,” said Pham. “But as the course went on, we felt more comfortable and I think we contributed a