2011 MCAS Results Released

Today, the results of the 2011 statewide standardized tests, MCAS, were announced. You can see full results and search for scores among school districts across the state here. While there is still room for improvement, the good news is that scores increased at 16 of the 35 underperforming schools across Massachusetts.

Congratulations to the many City Connects schools in Boston and Springfield who saw improvements in the number of students scoring proficient or advanced–check out a Boston Globe graphic here.

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Report Gives Massachusetts “D” Grade on Youth Physical Activity

A new report from the Boston Foundation and NEHI, a nonprofit, independent health policy institute, handed out grades to Massachusetts across a range of areas in its “Healthy People/Healthy Economy” [pdf] annual report card. Sadly, Massachusetts earned a lackluster “D” in the category of youth physical activity. The report explains why:

  • In 2009, one in every four students in Massachusetts did not participate in at least 60 minutes of physical activity per week and almost half—42%—of Massachusetts public school students did not attend any physical education classes.
  • According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, just 18 percent of Massachusetts schools offer daily gym classes, compared with a 30% national average.
  • According to a July 2011 report, Massachusetts is at the bottom of all states when it comes to physical activity for high
    school students.

To try to improve on this front, the Coalition has filed legislation urging state standards to require at least 30 minutes of physical activity during the school day, every day, for all students.

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City Connects in Education Week’s ‘Futures of School Reform’ blog

As we wrote about earlier this week, Massachusetts Secretary of Education Paul Reville has been writing this week about the importance of addressing non-school factors in education reform. Today, he authored a blog post, “Bolder, Broader Action: Strategies for Closing the Poverty Gap,” that mentions City Connects as a successful strategy for addressing out-of-school factors. As Secretary Reville wrote:

“… the challenge now is to translate our analysis into action by implementing a series of strategies, coupled with measurable outcomes, to ensure success.”

We feel strongly about evidence informing our practice and have conducted rigorous evaluation of our work. Learn more about City Connects’ positive impact on:

Out-of-School Factors In the News

Central to our philosophy at City Connects is that the out-of-school factors affecting students have a great impact on their ability to learn and thrive in school. (You can read about how we address out-of-school factors for children here.)

Richard Rothstein of the Economic Policy Institute has written beautifully on the subject, most recently in an issue brief, “How to Fix our Schools.” In the brief, Rothstein reiterates research that demonstrates only one-third of the achievement gap in schools is due to quality of instruction.

“Decades of social science research have demonstrated that differences in the quality of schools can explain about one-third of the variation in student achievement. But the other two-thirds is attributable to non-school factors,” he wrote.

Two great articles published recently advocated for addressing out-of-school factors. Massachusetts Secretary of Education Paul Reville and Jeffrey R. Henig, professor of political science and education at Columbia University, jointly authored a commentary, “Why Attention Will Return to Non-School Factors,” in Education Week. Reville and Henig wrote:

“Our vision of the future of education reform is simple: American schools won’t achieve their goal of ‘all students at proficiency’ unless they attend to nonschool factors.”

They propose a multi-tiered solution comprising data that links student outcomes to services, quantifiable indicators of success that are measured long-term, and benchmarks that can provide feedback on student progress. Reville wrote an accompanying blog post, “Closing the Poverty Gap: The Way Forward for Education Reform,” about the relationship between poverty and student achievement in Massachusetts.

In the New York Times, Lisa Belkin considers attempts to increase parental engagement in schools in her article, “Whose Failing Grade Is It?“. Belkin introduces several pieces of state legislation aimed at mandating parents’ involvement in their children’s schools as a means to improve student performance. Belkin quotes Diane Ravitch, an education historian, who argues that parent education should be targeted to parents when their children are born up to age five. Ravitch goes on to say:

“…We need to acknowledge that the root problem is poverty.”

These two pieces call attention to the impact out-of-school factors can have on children–something we believe in strongly at City Connects. Our systematic approach to supporting students strengths and needs has proven effective; you can read about our results here.

Making an A+ Teacher

Boston’s NPR station, WBUR, has launched a week-long series, “Making an A+ Teacher,” which aims to examine the factors that make a good teacher great. The first story aired today (“What Makes a Good Teacher?“) and focused on how successful teachers embody three distinct roles: social worker, instructor, and manager.

The online component of the series includes an interactive map of Massachusetts, which overlays teacher salaries and per-pupil spending with MCAS (state standardized test) scores. Check it out here.

For more information:

  • Follow WBUR on Twitter @WBUR

Massachusetts’ Education Year in Review

Secretary Reville

Massachusetts Secretary of Education Paul Reville just published a full review of the 2010 “Year in Education.” You can read the entire report here. Highlights include Governor Patrick signing the Achievement Gap Act, as well as Massachusetts earning the top score in the nation and $250 million in the Race to the Top competition.

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Massachusetts Among Top States Distributing Education Funding Fairly, Study Says

To determine if school funding reaches the students who need it the most, a new study from the Education Law Center, “Is School Funding Fair? A National Report Card,” ranked all 50 states on their education finance systems and school funding fairness. The study examined  four separate but interrelated “fairness indicators”–funding level, funding distribution, state fiscal effort, and public school coverage.

Scoring high in all four indicators, Massachusetts received a grade of B. The study reports that Massachusetts has a mean actual state and local revenue per pupil of $14,355, which is higher than the national average. Five other states also ranked highly across all categories: Connecticut, Iowa, New Jersey, Vermont, and Wyoming.

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Three Massachusetts Groups Awarded “Promise Neighborhood” Planning Grants

The U.S. Department of Education yesterday awarded 21 “Promise Neighborhood” planning grants to nonprofit organizations and universities across the country, three of which are based in Massachusetts. The one-year grants of up to $500,000 are designed to help these groups create plans to provide comprehensive “cradle to career” services for children.

“Communities across the country recognize that education is the one true path out of poverty,” said Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. “These Promise Neighborhoods applicants are committed to putting schools at the center of their work to provide comprehensive services for young children and students.”

The Massachusetts winners are Community Day Care Center of Lawrence, Inc. in Lawrence, the United Way of Central Massachusetts in Worcester, and the Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative in Boston.

As reported in the Boston Globe, “the $500,000 grant to the Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative, a community-based organization, represents a major milestone in replicating the Harlem Children’s Zone locally. For years, different groups of city leaders, philanthropists, and community activists have toured the Harlem program, returning each time to Boston energized, but unable to sustain the momentum.”

One of City Connects’ schools, Orchard Gardens, is located in Dudley Street’s target neighborhood of Roxbury, which is also part of Boston Mayor Tom Menino’sCircle of Promise,” a 5-square-mile area in where the Mayor and Boston Public Schools have been trying to set up a coalition to provide wraparound services for children. Dudley Street will partner with the City of Boston, nonprofit groups, philanthropists, after-school providers, religious leaders, and universities to advance this agenda.

Next year, the President has requested $210 million in his budget, including $200 million to support implementation of Promise Neighborhood projects and $10 million for planning grants for new communities.

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