LAST SUNDAY’S article about low-income children academically treading water neglected to include one of the bright spots in urban education (“MCAS scores appear stuck in stubborn income gap,’’ Page A1). In the latest round of MCAS scores, charter public schools in some of the state’s poorest communities outscored schools from some of the state’s richest communities.
Six charters that enroll children from Boston, Lawrence, Cambridge, and Chelsea ranked first in the state on various MCAS tests, placing a higher percentage of students in “proficient and advanced’’ brackets than any other school, including those from Weston, Dover, Brookline, and other suburban districts. Three additional Boston-area charters ranked first based on the state’s so-called growth model, which measures academic progress of students over time.
More than three-quarters of the students who attend these charters are African-American or Hispanic; two-thirds come from low-income families; one-third come from families whose first language is not English, and 15 percent have special needs. These are children who historically have achieved at levels far below students in suburban schools.
In spite of what the statewide numbers show, there are schools that are closing the achievement gap between the haves and the have-nots. Charters are proving that given the right opportunities, children from all backgrounds can achieve at the highest levels.
Massachusetts Charter Public School Association
Great, immeasurable gains are made in this classroom
OUR GRANDDAUGHTERS’ school is not making “adequate yearly progress.’’ But we’re delighted with the education they’re getting (“Underperforming schools show MCAS improvement: But 82 percent in state fall short of federal targets,’’ Page A1, Sept. 21).
The Healey School in Somerville has children of all races and incomes. Many aren’t yet fluent in English. It’s no surprise that this school is among the 82 percent in the state that can’t meet the requirements for ever-higher MCAS scores imposed by the misnamed No Child Left Behind federal law, despite the fact that Massachusetts students are at the top in national tests.
But walk inside that school and you’re likely to see kindergarten children publishing books, making robots, and drawing self portraits. Third graders are pondering mathematics questions (“Is there a biggest number?’’). You may hear the school orchestra, with fourth graders who’ve taken the school’s free lessons playing Beethoven on city-provided cellos and violins.
Under pressure to post her students’ progress on a “data wall,’’ a third-grade teacher decided instead to put up what the children themselves felt they had learned. One had learned to love writing. Another could now spell hard words like “humongous.’’ A third child reported, “In the beginning I bothered a lot of kids. Not anymore.’’
Those achievements may not score points with federal or state authorities, but it counts in our book.
Pat Jehlen is Senate vice chairwoman of the Legislature’s Committee on Education.