Published October 13, 2010
Carol Johnson, Boston’s superintendent of schools, is proposing to close six “underperforming” schools in the city. One of them, Roger Clap Elementary in Dorchester, is tiny — 166 students across seven grades.
Smaller is not always better, Johnson recently told Radio Boston:
Small class size can be important. But if you have small class size or small schools — and you don’t focus on the teaching and learning that’s going on in them and thinking about individual students and how you’re going to respond to their needs — it won’t be enough.
Johnson wants to close the six schools based, in large part, on MCAS data that show consistently poor student performance. (Mayor Tom Menino supports the plan, even though it would mean the closure of three schools in his neighborhood of Hyde Park.)
But Kenny Jervis, whose 7-year-old, Sophia, and 4-year-old, Nigel, attend Clap Elementary, says MCAS can’t capture the kind of education happening at Clap.
Jervis created a Facebook group dedicated to keeping the school open, and he shared with me an open letter signed by Clap parents, excerpted here:
We value our diversity. Our school is a beautiful and accurate picture of the community it serves. We are made up of many different ethnic groups, religious affiliations, and socioeconomic statuses. You will not see a more beautiful picture than Ms. Casey’s second grade portraits, where there is no majority race represented but instead a vibrant and varied image of humanity, reflective of our beautiful city. Furthermore, we are a school whose student body is comprised of 3/4 regular education and 1/4 special education, all of whom are appreciated and esteemed.
We as the Parent Council feel that our school ought not to be closed based, as the decision was, solely on our MCAS scores. We urge you to consider the greater context of the thriving community that we enjoy at the Roger Clap, which is a service to not only our children but to Dorchester/South Boston as well. We believe that the mark of an excellent student goes beyond his or her ability to achieve high scores on a standardized test, but in his or her ability to become decent, compassionate citizens who are appreciative of, interested in, and concerned about the world around them. This is the beauty and benefit of a child’s education at our school.
We are willing to consider proposals to hear how we might advance our MCAS scores. These past few years our school has attempted to do this, but we are constantly overlooked for funding and endowments for things like tutoring due to our size.
You can read the parents’ full letter (PDF).
Why would the city close struggling schools instead of deeming them “turnaround schools” — which would provide extra funding and the flexibility to fire teachers?
In fact, Johnson told Radio Boston, it’s up to the state to make that designation — and “we don’t want to wait around for the state to tell us which schools need to improve.”
To parents like Jervis, Johnson said this:
“We need them to understand that while the test scores aren’t everything, students have to be competent, and they have to be ready to do college-level work. And we don’t want to do a disservice to them to make them think that they can be in a school and have a wonderful experience but not be well-educated.”
Johnson is holding a series of public hearings this month to hear from parents and students. Jervis will attend the hearing for Clap Elementary on Thursday at 6 p.m.