Today's Boston Globe features a front-page story on the end of the 20-year experiment with Boston University running the public schools in Chelsea. The university stepped in at a time when confidence in local government in Chelsea may have been at an all-time low. Indeed, the entire city went into state receivership soon after the BU takeover of the schools. The article credits the university for sticking with the project and bringing more than $27 million in added funding to the schools in the working-class community just north of Boston. Facilities have been upgraded and there are music and art classes and AP courses where before there had been none. But despite all the efforts, the city's schools remain mired near the bottom on indicators of student achievement. The district has the second-lowest graduation rate in the state, according to the story, and 58 percent of eighth-graders failed last year's MCAS math test.
The BU effort may have been admirable, but it's awfully hard to say it was successful. The story seems to underscore the need to dramatically remake schools serving poorer children, if they are to truly break free of the pattern of low achievement scores in low-income communities. It's an argument that is made in "Held back," the cover story of CommonWealth magazine's recent special issue on education.