What is Education?
Education is the process by which skills, knowledge and values are transmitted from teacher to student while, at the same time, each student’s potential to think and act logically, creatively and critically is being developed.
Education includes early learning in the home and community as well as formal institutions at all levels – from early education and PreK- 12 public school districts, charter schools, private and parochial schools to public and private two- and four-year institutions of higher education, continuing and adult education programs, technical training, union apprenticeships and advanced professional degrees. In addition to teachers and students, the sector includes parent organizations, teachers’ unions, after-school and summer programs, academic departments of education and research institutes, advocacy organizations and volunteer groups.
THE EDUCATION SECTOR IN BOSTON
Massachusetts is the nation's premier education state, with the nation's best educated workforce and highest scores on a number of key measures of educational quality and attainment. However, more than is true in most states, Massachusetts has two parallel systems of education: public and private. Many of its private schools, colleges and universities rank among the world's best, as do some of its public institutions. The preeminence of the state's private schools over decades and centuries obscured the need for comparable excellence in Massachusetts public education system. However in light of current global economic and demographic trends, reform is now in process.
Public education in Boston reflects and adheres to statewide policies and standards coordinated by the new Massachusetts Executive Office of Education, established in 2008 by Governor Deval Patrick, which coordinates previously independent departments, including:
• The Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care (EEC), which supports a network of local and regional early childhood education and caretaking organizations, provides financial support to low-income families with children and licenses EEC programs statewide.
• The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) , which oversees nearly one million public elementary and secondary school students in 393 school districts as well as curriculum frameworks, teacher licensure, approval and oversight of Charter Schools, Adult Basic Education (ABE), Community Learning and English classes (ESOL, and the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) and is the link to Federal programs and policy such as Obama’s Race to the Top stimulus funding for education.
• The Massachusetts Department of Higher Education (DHE) oversees policies and works to improve outcomes regarding the more than 290,000 students enrolled at one of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts’ 29 public colleges and universities: 15 community colleges; 9 state universities; and 5 University of Massachusetts campuses – Boston, Lowell, Dartmouth, Worcester and the UMass Medical School, and Amherst, the system’s flagship.
Increasingly, Massachusetts' public education systems at all levels are linked by a shared longitudinal data system that will allow the Commonwealth and its school districts and public higher education institutions to track individual students needs and progress.
The Boston Public Schools (BPS) is the nation’s first public school system and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts’ largest school district. Boston’s pre K – high school students total about 79,000 in the 2012/13 school year. Of those, the vast majority, attend a public school – either a Boston Public School, a public charter school or a suburban public school – and about 11,000 attend a private or parochial school, are home schooled or are placed by the BPS Special Education Department in non-BPS schools and programs.
The BPS, with a total projected enrollment of 57,811 for the 2012/13 school year, is comprised of 134 schools from Pre-K through high school. It includes some of the best-performing schools in the nation, such specifically the competitive Boston Latin and Boston Latin Academy, and schools struggling to improve student performance that rank near the bottom statewide.
To meet the needs of its students, of whom about 75% are eligible for free- or reduced price meals and about 86% are of color, about 40% are English language learners and about 20% have learning or physical disabilities, the BPS offers six early learning centers (K- 1), 53 elementary schools (K–5), 23 elementary & middle schools (K–8) , 10 middle schools (6–8), two middle and high schools (6–12), 29 high schools (9–12), one elementary through high school (K-12) – including three competitive “exam” schools (7–12), six special education schools (K–12), and a number of alternative programs for at-risk students including Alternative Pathways and Community Academy among others.
An increasing number of schools are designed to expand school, teacher and programming autonomy, with greater flexibility and freedom in decision-making and resource allocation. Of these: 11 are historically low-performing Turnaround Schools serving 5,699 students in school year 2012/13, which received added flexibility and resources through Boston’s portion of the Commonwealth’s Race to the Top award; six are Expanded Learning Time (ELT) schools serving 2,297 students; six are Horace Mann schools serving 1,075 students and 18 are Pilot Schools which serve 6,513 students.
The BPS also offers a Newcomers Academy for recently-arriving immigrant and English Language Learner students and a range of vocational-technical opportunities at Madison Park High School. Another 3,341 Boston students attend public school in a number of suburban school districts through Boston’s METCO program.
In addition to the Boston Public School District, public schools in Boston includes Commonwealth Charter Schools, some of which rank among the best in the nation. Together, Boston’s 23 charter schools serve 6,265 Boston students selected by lottery. Most Charter Schools have long waiting lists, and expansion of the number of charter school “seats” by lifting the current cap on their expansion is advocated by many.
Private and parochial schools make up the remainder of schools serving Boston students, with 19 private schools serving 3,315 students in the 2012/13 school year and 24 parochial schools serving another 7,648 Boston students. In addition, 568 students are served by other schools.
Greater Boston is home to 74 institutions of public and private higher education—from universities such as the University of Massachusetts Boston, MIT, Harvard, Boston College, Boston University, Northeastern and Tufts to excellent liberal arts colleges and specialized professional schools such as the Massachusetts College of Art and Design, Wheelock, Simmons, Wheaton, Emerson and Berklee, and a network of community colleges for a combined regional enrollment of more than 260,000 students annually. Of these institutions, 35 are located within Boston’s city limits, including Roxbury Community College and Bunker Hill Community College.
Many local colleges and universities contain schools or departments of education that form part of the local teacher and school leadership training system -- Harvard, Lesley, Wheelock, UMass-Boston, Boston College – while community colleges offer AB degrees in early childhood development and early education. Other institutions offer specialized research expertise to the field, such as the Harvard School of Education’s Center on the Developing Child and UMass Boston’s ethnically-focused research institutes, the Mauricio Gaston Institute for Latino Development, the Institute of Asian American Studies and the William Monroe Trotter Institute.
Teachers in Boston are represented by the Boston Teachers Union, an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers. Statewide, local teachers unions belong to either the Massachusetts Teachers Association (MTA) or the American Federation of Teachers Massachusetts.
Many young teachers are drawn from Teach for America. Aspiring new teachers also have access to the innovative Boston Teachers Residency program.
Boston’s education sector is enriched by local and statewide advocacy and research organizations such as Massachusetts Advocates for Children, Strategies for Children, and Stand for Children, the Rennie Center for Education Research and Policy, the Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education and the Massachusetts Center for Budget and Policy, which now coordinates KidsCount Massachusetts.
Progress on educational attainment among those groups with historic educational disadvantage is advancing through collaborative initiatives and public-private partnerships. One example is the Boston Opportunity Agenda, which is designed to boost school and student performance and outcomes in Boston across the educational pipeline. Another, Success Boston, aims to increase BPS graduates’ rates of college entry and completion. Finally, the Vision Project, an initiative of the Massachusetts Department of Education, is designed to boost results through methodical measurement, the adoption of best practices and comparisons with nationwide outcomes.
Educators, researchers, policy makers, advocates and parents will soon be able to track the progress of students, schools and teachers through i-PASSPORT (Massachusetts Information Providing Accelerated Student Success from Preschool to Occupations in Real Time), a new longitudinal data and information system funded by a $6 million State Longitudinal Data Systems grant from the US Department of Education to improve the data collection process and, over time, enable the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (ESE) to implement a School Interoperability Framework.