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. Craig Dutra is the Chair.
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.
Since releasing the report, Roundtable members have met regularly with Superintendent of Schools, currently Dr. Pia Durkin, 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 practices 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.
In May 2011, 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.
In reponse, former New Bedford Mayor Scott Lang issued a 27-page rebuttal to the DOE:
Since the release of the Urban Initiative report, members of the Roundtable has authored several Op Ed pieces that have run in The Standard-Times. The most recent was signed by community members in support of Dr. Durkin's recently approved $16.4 million school budget for 2014-2015, an increase from this year's $109.4 million budget that's necessary to fund the New Bedford High School Level 4 turnaround plan, the Parker School Level 5 turnaround plan, and a new literacy program for every elementary school, among other items.