Friday, April 2, 2021

Celebrating 10 Years of Blogging!

On this day, 10 years ago, I published my first post. To be quite honest, I'm not sure why I specifically started this blog in April 2011 but I do remember becoming more interested in education and educational justice as I reflected on my time at Wellesley College and as a Lynn public school graduate. Namely, I considered the ways in which divestment, the overemphasis on standardized testing and an opportunity gap factored into my experience at an elite, predominantly white liberal arts college (located in Wellesley, MA). 

So in that contemplation, An Education was born. 

Since that time I have had the opportunity to interact with so many wonderful individuals, some I only know through Twitter and others I have been fortunate enough to meet in real life (shout out to Tracy Novick and Jennifer Berkshire for being early supporters of my blog and also providing much needed guidance at times). I have worked with Lynn Parents Organizing for a Better Education. Moderated a few Lynn School Committee debates. Grilled local and municipal candidates for office. Given presentations on the Massachusetts public school funding formula (my favorite topic). Hosted a book club with the authors of A Wolf at the Schoolhouse Door. Gotten a book signed by Diane Ravitch. 

While life circumstances have gotten in the way in last few years and I have not been able to blog as much as I would like lately - I'm still celebrating ::shrugs:: 

To celebrate the last decade, here are some of my favorite posts: 

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Kindergarten Population in Lynn sees Increase in English Language Learner, Limited English Proficiency Students Over Past Decade

Recently, discussion around the growing Limited English Proficiency/English Language Learner student population in Lynn at the kindergarten level. Last week, the Lynn School Committee voted 4-3 to not require kindergarten teachers to obtain an ESL certification (that decision received a sharp rebuke from the Daily Item).

Looking at the data, Lynn's LEP/ELL student population at the kindergarten level has increased substantially over the last decade. During the 2011-12 school year, 336 out of 1,235 kindergarten students were LEP/ELL; in 2020-21 that ratio was 695 out of 1,086. 



At individual schools, the percentage of LEP/ELL students is much higher than the city rate overall. Below are the schools with the highest number of this student population; these schools represent 55% of the kindergarten population overall and 61% of the kindergarten LEP/ELL population citywide. 




As the student population in Lynn continues to change, it will be interesting to see how the School Department responds to changing priorities and needs as a result (and also how the School Committee responds).


All data taken from: www.doe.mass.edu 

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Compared to Surrounding Communities, Lynn Public School District Enrolls Higher Percentages of Non-White, ELL and Economically Disadvantaged Student Populations

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to attend a Policy for Progress webinar titled 'A Conversation for Progress: Perspectives on School Segregation' which featured panelists discussing the segregation in Massachusetts public schools. In large part, the conversation centered on this Fault Lines report on attitudes and perceptions of segregation in the state. Interestingly, according to the report, Massachusetts voters perceived school segregation to be a bigger problem nationwide compared to the state (26% versus 14%). Additionally, nearly half of Massachusetts voters believe that the state's school's have become less segregated in the last 50 years. 

The report goes on to compare the disparities in five neighboring communities including Worcester-Shrewsbury and Lawrence-Andover. In looking at the city of Lynn and some surrounding communities, one can similar disparities as those noted in the Fault Lines report. 

Per the most updated data reported by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE), the percentage of non-white students (including multi-racial students) in Lynn this school year was 86.9% compared to a range of 13.6% - 57.4% in neighboring communities. Just over two-thirds of the student population in Lynn is Hispanic. 


While Lynn has had a much higher non-white student population for at least the last 27 years (see below), even with a growing a non-white student population in surrounding communities, Lynn's non-white student population continues to be significantly higher than towns like Marblehead and Swampscott. 


Even within Lynn, there is evidence of segregation. For example, 44.2% of white students enrolled at Breed, Marshall and Pickering Middle Schools attend Pickering Middle School; the other 55.8% are split between Breed and Marshall Middle Schools. 


In looking at other selected populations, Lynn also has a much higher percentage of students whose first language is not English and who are English Language Learners and 'economically disadvantaged'. 




All data taken from: www.doe.mass.edu 

Friday, December 4, 2020

Book Reviews: A Wolf at the Schoolhouse Door

During the last four years, there have been many issues and concerns that have competed for the public’s attention: the Muslim ban, family separations, an impeachment, the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, protests against police brutality and the recent election to name a few. Noted but perhaps less at the media forefront has been the implementation of specific policies both under Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and within individual states that aim to "re-envision" public education through a very conservative lens. In terms of public education, many of the conversations in recent years have focused on the school choice movement and the increasing use of standardized test scores to hold schools “accountable” and label them “good or bad.” The re-envisioning (or dismantling depending on your vantage point), however, which has really solidified in the last few years is unfortunately much broader than that. 

In A Wolf at the Schoolhouse Door: The Dismantling of Public Education and the Future of the School, authors Jennifer Berkshire and Jack Schneider (hosts of the popular podcast Have You Heard) go beyond talking about the conservative agenda and public education solely in terms of privatization and standardized testing.  A Wolf explores other aspects of this agenda: vouchers, the rise of (pre-COVID) virtual schooling, the idea of “unbundling education," deregulation, limiting the role of organized labor, the use of ratings and advertising in public schools, and, at the heart of it all,  free market thinking. More than just positioning efforts to dismantle public education as only a conservative, Republican ideology, Berkshire and Schneider also acknowledge the ways in which Democratic lawmakers have also contributed to a climate in which some not only see education and the way it is currently delivered  as something that needs to radically change but also an sector to profit off of at times to the detriment of the most vulnerable student populations. 


Both in laying out the current state of public education and providing  key historical context, Berkshire and Schneider provide an extensive yet well laid out and easily understandable assessment of the issues at play in light of the substantial funding  and efforts being allocated toward a very specific re-envisioning of public schooling that relies less on the idea of public education as a public good meant to benefit the collective  and more so on individual needs that prioritize  choice, competition and cost cutting. A Wolf at the Schoolhouse Door is a must read for anyone interested in the current state and future of public education in the United States. 

_________

If purchasing, please consider buying from your local independent bookseller.

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Massachusetts Sees Decrease in Student Enrollment, Increase in Economically Disadvantaged Population

Earlier, I noted that the percentage of Economically Disadvantaged students in the Lynn Public School District increased 6.9 points from the 2019-20 school year to the 2020-21 school year. Economically disadvantaged is defined as student participation in one or more of the following state administered programs: 
  • the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
  • the Transitional Assistance for Families with Dependent Children (TAFDC)
  • the Department of Children and Families' (DCF) foster care program
  • MassHealth (Medicaid)
Taking a look at the non-charter school districts in the state with the highest percentages of Economically Disadvantaged students this year, all of the top ten districts saw increases as well. 


2019-20
2020-21
Difference
 Springfield
77.6%
81.8%
4.2
 Holyoke
78.1%
81.4%
3.3
 Lawrence
70.7%
78.5%
7.8
 Southbridge
71.6%
77.2%
5.6
 New 
 Bedford
68.0%
74.0%
6.0
 Fall River
70.0%
73.8%
3.8
 Chelsea
63.9%
70.6%
6.7
 North Adams
61.9%
66.6%
4.7
 Fitchburg
61.9%
66.4%
4.5
 Brockton
57.5%
65.5%
8.0


Statewide, the percentage of Economically Disadvantaged students increased from 32.8% last year to 36.6% this year. In terms of pure numbers, this equates to the 333,829 Economically Disadvantaged students this year versus 310,873 in 2019-20. 


Data taken from: www.doe.mass.edu

Massachusetts Sees a 4% Drop in Public School Enrollment

The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education recently released updated public school enrollment figures for the 2020-21 school year. Amidst the pandemic and many districts moving to completely remote learning, the state reported a 4% decrease in student enrollment this year when compared to last year.


Specifically, at the lower grades the state reported at 30% decrease at the pre-kindergarten level, a 11.9% decrease at the kindergarten level and a 5.6% decrease at the first grade level. 


Similar to the Commonwealth as a whole, the Lynn Public School District saw a similar decrease at 3% compared to last school year.


While Lynn did see a slight increase in kindergarten students this year, the district also reported a 42% decrease in pre-kindergarten enrollment and a 11.5% decrease in first grade enrollment. 


Taking a look at the selected student populations at the state level, Massachusetts reported higher percentages of High Needs and Economically Disadvantaged students this year. 

2019-20 2020-21 Difference
First Language not English 23.0% 23.4% 0.4
English Language Learner 10.8% 10.5% -0.3
Students w/ Disabilities  18.4% 18.2% -0.2
High Needs 48.7% 50.9% 2.2
Economically Disadvantaged 32.8% 36.6% 3.8

 

In Lynn, despite a decrease in overall student population, the district reported increases in all of the selected student populations. 

2019-20 2020-21 Difference
First Language not English 58.7% 61.3% 2.6
English Language Learner 29.8% 31.5% 1.7
Students w/ Disabilities  16.9% 17.7% 0.8
High Needs 76.0% 79.5% 3.5
Economically Disadvantaged 58.2% 65.1% 6.9


In addition to concerns around online learning and whether, when and how to reopen school buildings, changes in student populations, particularly in districts like Lynn, as it relates to the number of students but also the types of students the district is tasked with education given current circumstances is should be given consideration. 

Data from: www.doe.mass.edu 

Friday, October 2, 2020

Lynn Early Voting Begins Saturday, October 17th

Early voting in the 2020 election will begin in Lynn on Saturday, October 17th at 8am and end on Friday, October 30th at 12:30pm. During the week, early voting hours will match normal City Hall business hours and on weekends (Saturday and Sunday) voting will take place between 8am and 2pm. 

Source: lynnma.gov