Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Late buses early in the school year

I know families have been experiencing major bus delays since school started. (We're walkers, so we haven't been affected.) The bus drivers union leader told the Globe that hundreds of buses were arriving late. BPS says it's working to fix the problem. Boston switched to a computerized routing system this year, and apparently there are quite a few kinks in the system, like unanticipated construction on Blue Hill Ave. and the software not allowing time for kids to get settled once they board. The Transportation Department is looking at GPS data to analyze the routes. They rerouted some trouble spots this weekend and say that families should feel relief soon.

BPS says to call the back-to-school hotline if you still have delays -- (617) 635-9046. One family has also set up a wiki where people can add information about delays.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Discouraging, but not entirely surprising

The Globe has a story today on how schools in the Boston and Springfield metropolitan areas are among the most highly segregated in the nation. Boston ranked fourth in the country in terms of segregation of Latino students and 28th for black students. (Their definition of “Boston” actually includes much of eastern Massachusetts and some of New Hampshire.)

As the article notes, the segregation isn’t really limited to suburban vs. urban schools. There are major differences in racial make-up within Boston schools. They note that the Blackstone school in the South End is about 80% Latino, while the Oliver Hazard Perry School in South Boston is about 60% white. This sort of difference was apparent to me when going to school previews around the West Zone. With at least half of the student body come from within 1 mile from the school, schools wind up looking a lot like the neighborhoods.

The full report is here.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

School-level MCAS results are out

The school-by-school results of this spring's MCAS tests are available online. You have to click the "school" button at the top, as opposed to the "district" button. Then you can use the pulldown menu to select an individual school. You have to click on the "Assessement" tab to see the scores. I'm not breaking them down like I did last year. You should be able to see which schools made AYP and which schools didn't. BPS notes that district-wide, math scores have improved and even outpaced growth at the state level.

First day of kindergarten

My kinder survived his first day of school. It was definitely a relief to find him where he was expected to be after school. The bus had indeed deposited him at the correct location, and he didn't appear to have any short-term psychological damage from the experience.

One of his first reactions to his school day was “How come we don’t get to play on the playground much?” So I had to sit him down and have the talk. “Son, you’re a man now. The carefree days of hours of outdoor play are over. During school, you may only get 20 minutes a day. That’s it.” He bowed his head, stuck out the edge of his lower lip, and seemed to realize that this was the end of an era.

Coincidentally, the New York Times happens to have an article today about how physical activity might make kids smarter in terms of executive control and memory. I’m just sayin’…

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Happy first day of school!

Happy back-to-school day for the older kids. I can already hear the buses rumbling down our street. For those of us with incoming kindergarteners, we still have them at home (or wherever) until Monday.

Until then, here’s a little light reading for homework. It seems everyone has stories on BPS in honor of the first day of school. I’m not even going to try to recap all of them. You just get headlines and links today.

Stories on turnaround schools:
Superintendent Johnson: We Expect To See A Turnaround In Schools – WBUR (with audio)
12 Boston schools face ‘make or break’ makeover - Boston Herald
- with sidebar An inside look at three key ‘turnaround’ sites

Contract negotiations:
Coalitions gather for school reform - Boston Globe column

School lunch ideas (I can always use more ideas, particularly ones that don't involve lunch meat, nuts, or hummus):
Lunchbox specials: Chef shares ways to prepare yummy, healthy school meals - Boston Herald

Teacher-led schools:
In a New Role, Teachers Move to Run Schools - New York Times, BTU's lead teacher is quoted.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Group rallies for changes to teachers' contract

A coalition called Boston United for Students rallied for teacher contract changes at Court Street yesterday on the last day of the teachers' existing contract. Negotiations are ongoing for a new contract.

This group, along with Put Students First Coalition for a 21st Century Contract, supports reform "that would allow longer school days, greater flexibility by administrators in hiring and assigning staff, and a stronger evaluation system," the Globe reports.

WBUR's Radio Boston devoted 19 minutes on Monday to negotiations between the school department and the Boston Teachers Union. They interviewed Richard Stutman, president of the BTU. Here is what the BTU proposed in June.