7 Things To Know About The Potential State Takeover Of Holyoke Schools

Lawrence's Arlington Middle School students walk through the main hallway on their way to class. If Holyoke Public Schools is placed in state receivership, it will join Lawrence as the only other district taken over by the state. (Jesse Costa/WBUR/File)

On Tuesday, Massachusetts' Board of Elementary and Secondary Education may vote whether or not to take over Holyoke Public Schools and place it under receivership.

At March's board meeting, Mitchell Chester, commissioner of elementary and secondary education, proposed the move. Chester cited pervasive problems and consistent underperformance in the district. Earlier this month, he formally recommended the district be placed under receivership.

Under state receivership, the commissioner and a state-named receiver would develop a district turn-around plan to enhance academic progress in the district. The district would remain under receivership until it has improved to the point that the designation of "chronically underperforming" can be removed.

As a part of the plan, the receiver would have authority to hire or fire staff, regardless of union contracts. Read More →

Driverless Cars Accelerate Learning At Cambridge Science Fest

Jayden Brothers, left, looks on as Daniel Hargrove, center, programs their robotic car. Daniel Hsu, right, co-founder of Ergopedia, the company that created the robotic vehicle assists the students during a motion physics workshop on April 21, 2015. (Peter Balonon-Rosen/WBUR)

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. -- They call it the car of the future, but its turns aren't quite wide enough for this present-day road. One look at the driver's resigned face confirms that disaster is imminent. A sigh escapes from pursed lips.

The car crashes.

Despite the collision, there are no flames to quell and no police to call. Instead, smiling, fourth grader Daniel Hargrove walks over to the makeshift course in the middle of the room. He picks up the driverless robotic vehicle he programmed and scoops up the black plastic cone knocked over by the car.

It's school vacation week, but learning certainly has not come to a halt at the Gately Youth Center. Eleven lively boys from fourth through seventh grades program and test small robotic vehicles equipped with real-time motion technology. Read More →

As Schools Favor iPads Over Textbooks, Educators Adapt

Jhymon Moodie, a junior at Burlington High School, stands with his iPad in the school's library on April 9, 2015. In 2011, the school decided to adopt a 1:1 model, in which every student has a device. (Peter Balonon-Rosen/WBUR)

BURLINGTON, Mass. -- There is no denying that iPads are a dynamic tool for education. In fact, they may be changing how classrooms work.

Dennis Villano knows this from multiple perspectives: he was a middle school history teacher and now is the head of technology integration for Burlington Public Schools. Burlington is a 1:1 district, meaning every student is given an iPad so they may access the Internet, digital coursework or digital textbooks at school. It is a model that schools across the state are moving towards.

"By going to a digital resource, it provides a much more interactive way to learn," Villano said on a recent Thursday at Burlington High School. "Too many schools are still stuck in the classroom that looked the way their great-grandparents' looked. We can’t have that anymore."

However, as schools phase out paper textbooks in favor of digital tools, teachers face a unique challenge: how do they develop, organize and distribute a digital course for the classroom? Read More →

Report: Boston Lacks ‘Cultural Competence’ In Teaching Black, Latino Males

A new study identifies "best practices" in Boston schools that further the education of black and Latino males, but says, in general, Boston schools largely display a widespread lack of cultural competency when teaching those students. (Steve Ruark/AP)

BOSTON -- A new study identifies best practices in Boston schools that further the education of black and Latino males, but says, in general, Boston schools largely display a widespread lack of cultural competency when teaching those students.

While the study points to caring school cultures, professional collaboration, individualized instruction and family engagement as positive existing school practices, Rosann Tung, lead author of the study, says that in order to close achievement and opportunity gaps, more must be done.

"What we did not find was a systemic, school-wide approach to reaching black and Latino males and engaging them in their education," said Tung, who is also director of research and policy at Brown University's Annenberg Institute for School Reform. Read More →

Social Studies Education In ‘Crisis,’ Says Mass. Council President

Gorman Lee, president of the Massachusetts Council for the Social Studies (MCSS), warns that social studies education is facing “a civic crisis.” (Wikimedia)

With the proliferation of high-stakes testing for English-language arts, math and science, educators in a non-tested area are concerned that their subject has been pushed aside.

In a message posted to the Massachusetts Council for the Social Studies' (MCSS) website in late March, president Gorman Lee says that social studies education in the state is in the midst of a "civic crisis."

"We've already heard so many of our students graduating from high school with limited knowledge about our government, how it functions and operates," Lee, who is also director of social studies for Braintree Public Schools, said in an interview. "There is a concern among social studies educators that the further marginalization of our subject area could lead to unintended consequences." Read More →

Report Urges State To Expand METCO

A report released Tuesday, "Expanding METCO And Closing Achievement Gaps," says that METCO deserves better funding. (David Goldman, AP)

BOSTON -- A new report highlights the success of Massachusetts' voluntary urban-to-suburban busing program, known as METCO, and says the state must do more to support and expand it.

The report, released Tuesday by the right-leaning think tank the Pioneer Institute, urges the state to provide additional funding for METCO, to expand the program to other urban districts, and to regularly provide more information about the program's impact.

Ken Ardon, co-author of the report and chair of the economics department at Salem State University, says METCO, which buses about 3,300 non-white Boston and Springfield students to schools in surrounding, predominantly white suburbs, is a key way to support urban education in the state.

"I think that it's a good way to give parents an opportunity to send their kids to different schools," Ardon said in an interview. "METCO is just one piece of that, but I think it's one that's been pretty successful." Read More →

Fed. Review Finds Boston Provides Poor Services To English Language Learners

BOSTON — Nearly five years after a federal investigation prompted Boston’s school system to overhaul programs for students who speak limited English, an ongoing federal review obtained by the Boston Globe shows that the school system is still failing to provide those students with an adequate education.

The federal review shows that, in middle school and high school, 49 percent of Boston’s students known as English-language learners (ELLs) receive insufficient specialized instruction or none at all. In elementary school, 24 percent of students with language barriers are without adequate specialized instruction.

In some cases, students received some or all of their specialized instruction from teachers who do not hold the proper certifications. Boston schools service about 15,500 ELLs. Read More →

2 Schools Would Close Under Boston School Budget

BOSTON — The Boston School Committee on Wednesday night unanimously voted to pass a more than $1 billion budget for the next year.

The spending plan calls for cutting more than 130 central office jobs and eliminating some school meal options. It also calls for closing two schools — Elihu Greenwood Leadership Academy and Rogers Middle School, both in Hyde Park — and merging two others.

Interim Superintendent John McDonough said the Muniz Academy in Jamaica Plain, the district’s dual language high school, would likely relocate to the Rogers building in 2016. Read More →

School Committee Roundup: Pembroke, Braintree, Easthampton, Southbridge

Here’s what’s happening right now in school districts across the state:

Pembroke: Cuts Reduce Budget Gap To Below $60,000

Members of the Pembroke School Committee have taken taken steps to shrink a school budget gap of $739,000 to below $60,0000, The Patriot Ledger reports.

The original gap grew by about $53,000 recently when the per-pupil figure in the governor’s proposed state budget was lowered from $25 to $20. Since then, the school committee has agreed on cuts that added up to $588,315. Read More →

Recycled Shipping Container Is Home To Student Farming

Taran Wise, a senior at Boston Latin School, prepares to harvest a crop of lettuce on March 16, 2015 in the school's freight farm. Students grew lettuce in the farm through the winter. (Peter Balonon-Rosen/WBUR)

BOSTON -- On the lawn behind Boston Latin School lies a recycled metal shipping container that contains cargo, perhaps, unlike anything it carried in its former life.

Inside of the 320-square-foot container's insulated walls, lays a low-energy farm in which students grow fresh produce year-round. The freight farm -- named after the shipping container it resides in -- is operated by students who dedicate time to the farm during study halls and after school.

"What the freight farm is, is a hydroponic farm which uses no soil," says Taran Wise, a senior. "So it circulates water through the farm, mixed with nutrients."

Over the past two months Boston Latin School students have worked almost daily to cultivate lettuce, raising and maintaining the plants from seed to harvest. Read More →