New Bedford Education Roundtable
The New Bedford Education Roundtable is a forum of individuals and organizational representatives concerned about excellence in educational attainment in the New Bedford Public Schools. It is hosted by the Community Foundation, and Roundtable members include representatives of 15 business, religious, philanthropic, educational and other community-based organizations. The Roundtable recently named Kate Fentress and Bruce Rose as its new co-chairs; Click here for a full press release about the new chairs and other Roundtable activities.
The Roundtable's first initiative was to commission a report by the UMass Dartmouth Urban Initiative, "Analysis of MCAS Performance/New Bedford Public Schools," which was released at a press conference in January 2011. The goals were to assess academic performance of New Bedford Public Schools and its students as measured by the MCAS, and to compare how they performed with Massachusetts students as a whole as well as those in similar cities (Brockton, Fall River, Fitchburg, Haverhill, Holyoke, Lawrence, Lowell, Pittsfield, Springfield, and Worcester).
The report found that MCAS scores in New Bedford Public Schools have declined from elementary to middle and high school levels, and are low compared to not only state averages but those of similar “Gateway Cities.” In particular, data shows that the NBPS student scores on the 2010 MCAS at the 7th grade level appear to plummet in comparison to their peers. The drop continues through the 8th grade and onto the 10th grade, where NBPS scores rank near the bottom in comparison to its peer communities.
This is the first in what the Roundtable hopes will be several reports or analyses concerning the challenges and opportunities facing public education in New Bedford. Since releasing the report, Roundtable members have met regularly with Superintendent of Schools Mary Louise Francis, and have also met with the School Committee, Secondary and Elementary School Principals, and with the New Bedford Educators Association. As next steps, the Roundtable is looking at best practicesi in education - both within the district and outside - and with the help of the community as a whole, plans to investigate the root causes of student underachievement. The Roundtable also hopes to host forums in the fall to see where the candidates for New Bedford Mayor and School Committee stand on educational issues.
Click here for the full report
Chart of 2010 MCAS Advanced/Proficient Percentage
2009/2010 High School & Demographic Data for Gateway Cities with Challenging Demographics
In May, the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education also released a report which was prompted by the district's standing as a "Level 4" district, a designation it received because it has one school that was named among the lowest performing and least improving schools in the state. The report was based on a review of the district's MCAS performance in 2010, interviews with district personnel and a two-day site visit to schools in November.
The review found issues of concern under each of the six district standards: leadership and governance; curriculum and instruction; assessment; human resources and professional development; student support; and financial and asset management.
To read the full state report
In reponse, New Bedford Mayor Scott Lang issued a 27-page rebuttal to the DOE:
Mayor Lang's rebuttal
Since the release of the Urban Initiative report, the Roundtable has authored three Op Ed pieces that have run in The Standard-Times. The first examines some issues with the teacher's contract in New Bedford. The second discusses the 4-year New Bedford High School graduation rates, which data recently released by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education shows to be at a five-year low: The third, published April 12, tries to explain more about the Roundtable, why we exist and what we are trying to do.
Overhaul teacher contract so children come first
4-year NBHS Graduation Rate at 5-year Low
Education Roundtable: A Steady Focus on Schools
Click here to send questions/comments to the Roundtable