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[Susan notes: A letter criticizing the Boston Globe, supported by the facts they have failed to publish.]

Published in Boston Globe
01/01/0003

To the editor

The Globe's education reporting on the first day of 2003 includes several half-truths that cast future prospects facing the young people of
Massachusetts and Boston in the rosiest possible light.

An article on the Boston School Committee's new members ("John Hancock chief to join school board," 1/1/03; http://www.boston.com/dailyglobe2/001/metro/John_Hancock_chief_to_join_school_board+.shtml)

mentions that 31% of Boston's 10th graders had failed MCAS last year. In fact, 31% of all Boston's 10th graders who took the MCAS English tests received "failing" scores, while another 5% who were enrolled but did not appear to take the test also received "failing" scores in English. But 48% of Boston's 10th graders taking MCAS received "failing" in math and another
4% received "failing" because of absence.

In short, the percentage of Boston students at risk for not receiving a high school diploma is actually more than half rather than less than
one-third. This is a "crisis," not an "issue." The numbers deserve a correction.

In a similar manner, the Globe's editorial ("Now, the good news," 1/1/03;
http://www.boston.com/dailyglobe2/001/editorials/Now_the_good_news+.shtml)
downplays concerns about dropouts, citing a "steady" dropout rate statewide. Unacknowledged is that the test scores the Globe applauds
clearly reflect changes in the test-taking population. As MCAS has become a graduation requirement, the percentage of students held back and dropping out of ninth grade has increased steadily statewide. Fewer dropouts now return to school. In high-need/low-capacity districts, dropout rates remain up to three times the statewide rate, and rates are rising in many.

The half-truths about MCAS scores and dropout trends reported in the Globe gloss over the negative outcomes inherent in current education
policy. "Train wrecks" are inevitable when we take the wrong track to start with.

Anne Wheelock


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