Monday, December 19, 2011

Swimming pools and school performance in Boston

Schools' physical facilities aren't so highly correlated with their reading scores...To put it another way, building a modern new building in a poor crime-infested neighborhood isn't enough to do the job. But different aspects of a school appeal to different families (which is the idea behind promoting school choice...)
Inequities among Boston’s schools: Gaps in facilities, test scores, safety complicate the process

"The Perkins Elementary School in South Boston is barely visible behind rows of nondescript brick buildings inside the Old Colony public housing development. Students make do without the most basic amenities, eating breakfast and lunch at their desks, taking gym classes at a Boys & Girls Club, and checking out books at a neighborhood library.

"About three miles away in a crime-ridden Dorchester neighborhood, the Holland Elementary School stands like a beacon. Nestled among fruit trees, Holland sports two cafeterias that serve freshly prepared meals, an indoor basketball court, an Olympic-size heated swimming pool, a soundproof music room with red and white electric guitars, and a library with more than 7,000 books.

"The stark differences between these two schools extend well beyond their facilities. Perkins, with its bare-bones surroundings, often propels students in early grades to great academic heights on standardized tests, while Holland struggles to get students to understand reading and math fundamentals.
""An impressive facility often does not equate with a stellar academic program. Other schools with meager facilities, such as Bradley in East Boston, Hale in Roxbury, and Mozart in Roslindale, had some of the highest reading and math scores on last spring’s Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System exams in the third grade. By contrast, some schools with swimming pools - such as Hennigan in Jamaica Plain, Marshall in Dorchester, and Mildred Avenue in Mattapan - landed in the bottom.
""The disparities add an agonizing layer to the school-selection process, underway for the next school year, as parents weigh what matters most for their child’s education and happiness: A nice building or solid academics? An outstanding music program or rigorous science instruction? A school near home or one with an after-school program?

"THE UNEVEN distribution of great facilities and programs underpins Boston’s elaborate school-lottery system, which was designed to give students a chance of getting into the best schools, and is also the reason the process is so harrowing. Some students win, gaining access to one of the city’s best schools, while other deserving students are consigned to schools with poor records of achievement, substandard facilities, or both.

The reality is there are not enough good schools,’’ said Kim Janey, senior project director for the Boston School Reform Initiative at Massachusetts Advocates for Children, a Boston nonprofit."
"As Tarso Ramos, a Roxbury father, scouted schools at one of the city’s annual “showcase of schools,’’ held last month at a Jamaica Plain school, he had already conceded that he and his wife may not find the dream school for their son.

It’s like a series of trade-offs,’’ Ramos said of the school-selection process. “So you figure out the right mix and what you can live without.’’

No comments: