For High Schoolers Struggling With Addiction, It’s A Bumpy Road To Recovery

Devin Rich, right, speaks with principal Roger Oser at William J. Ostiguy High School on July 10,2015. Ostiguy is one of the four recovery high schools currently in Massachusetts. (Peter Balonon-Rosen/WBUR)

BOSTON -- The first time Devin Rich died, it was the night before Mother's Day 2014. He was 17, and he overdosed on a cocktail of codeine, prescription tranquilizers and other drugs.

When Rich woke up in the hospital at 6 p.m. the next day, his mother was sitting by his side. She had spent all of Mother's Day sitting next to him, crying and hoping that he would revive. But the first thing Rich noticed, he says, was that he no longer had his drugs.

"I didn't wake up feeling remorseful or guilty," says Rich. "I woke up angry because my drugs weren't in my pocket, my night was cut short and my friends didn't help me -- they called the cops."

Against medical advice, he ran out of the hospital. A subsequent court order required that he be treated for substance abuse, whether he agreed to it or not.

"Even at that time I wanted to get clean, because my life sucked and I was very depressed," says Rich. "But I wanted to get high more than I wanted to get clean. I wanted instant gratification. I wanted to feel better today for a couple hours, rather than feel better a couple months from now forever."

In June, little more than a year later, Rich graduated sober from one of Massachusetts' four publicly funded high schools for students in recovery. But before he could get there, he had to die again. Read More →

Report: Ban On Junk Food In Mass. Schools Is Working

According to a new study Massachusetts schools have significantly reduced the availability of foods that fall outside of the recent school food standards. (Hans Pennink/AP)

BOSTON -- Recent state standards that called for bans on sugary sodas, potato chips and other vending machine snacks in schools are working, says a study published Wednesday.

The study looked at "competitive" food available in school -- foods offered for sale beyond the standard school meals and typically found in school stores, vending machines or a la carte lines. It found that Massachusetts schools are offering significantly fewer foods that fail to meet the standards.

"What we showed in our Massachusetts data is that schools are able to implement the standards effectively with very little technical assistance, with no financial assistance," said Jessica Hoffman, a Northeastern associate professor and the study's lead author. Read More →

How Much It Would Cost To Make College Free In Massachusetts… Or At Least Less Expensive

Students walk through the UMass Amherst campus. (Andrew Phelps/WBUR)

BOSTON -- It's 2015, college is expensive and costs are only rising. We all know a high school student who won't be able to afford college, a college student hoping the next few years will be worth the financial burden or a college graduate saddled with debt.

But Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center (MassBudget) hopes to see that change in the Bay State.

In a report released this week, the Boston-based policy analysis group explores options that would make public higher education in Massachusetts have a much more affordable price tag: free.

The options they explore would come with a cost of between $325 million and $631 million a year for the state, with various methods of eliminating tuition and fees for in-state students at community colleges and state universities.

"Making higher education much more affordable and making it possible for kids to graduate debt-free would not only help those kids and our economy, but it's something that could be done at a reasonable cost," said Noah Berger, president of Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center. Read More →

Guest Column: Let’s Stop The ‘Summer Slide’

By Deb Samuels

Once again the national conversation has turned to summer learning loss: the annual downward slide that occurs when students transition from the rhythm of the school day to less structured activities. Time and again, research has shown that without the review and reinforcement provided in the classroom, kids from all backgrounds can lose as much as two months’ worth of grade-level skills over summer vacation.

Significantly, during the school year all kids generally learn at the same rate – regardless of their economic standing. But that’s simply not true in the summer. For low-income kids, summer learning loss is greater and worsens from year to year. Why? The answer is simple: Access. Read More →

Senate’s Revised Education Bill Passes, Without Warren’s Vote

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, seen here at WBUR in March, was was one of just three Democrats to vote against the Every Child Achieves Act. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) was one of just three Democrats to vote against the Every Child Achieves Act, the Senate's revision of the education law known as No Child Left Behind, which passed Thursday by a vote of 81-17.

While she called the measure "a significant improvement in federal education policy," Warren said in a statement that it "eliminates basic, fundamental safeguards to ensure that federal dollars are actually used to improve both schools and educational outcomes for those students who are often ignored."

Warren supported the bill in committee because, she said, she was promised that "it would improve." But "in the past two weeks, Republicans have blocked every attempt to establish even minimum safeguards to ensure that money would be used effectively," she said. "I cannot support this legislation until this critical issue is meaningfully addressed." Read More →

Undocumented Students Push State For College Aid

At a morning press conference Carlos Rojas-Alvarez speaks to the media surrounded by members of the Student Immigration Movement. (Peter Balonon-Rosen/WBUR)

With an estimated 150,000 undocumented immigrants living in Massachusetts, a legislative push is under way to expand access to in-state college tuition rates and state financial aid to undocumented students. Advocates say it could affect an estimated 20,000 students in the state.

At a hearing Wednesday before the Joint Committee on Higher Education at the State House, nearly 200 people, mostly young students, packed the room to support House and Senate bills sponsored by Rep. Denise Provost (D-Somerville) and Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz (D-Boston), respectively.

The bills would each allow students who completed at least three years of high school in Massachusetts to access in-state tuition and state financial aid at all Massachusetts colleges and universities -- regardless of immigration status. Read More →

As Congress Debates ‘No Child Left Behind,’ White House Finds Achievement Gaps

States and districts across the nation are displaying meaningful gains in student achievement but, at the same time, poor students and students of color are still denied the opportunity to succeed. (Charles Rex Arbogast/AP)

While many states and school districts show significant gains in student achievement, poor students and students of color are still given fewer opportunities to succeed.

That's the troubling news from "Giving Every Child a Fair Shot," a White House report released this week as Congress takes up potential revisions to the nation's most far-reaching education law. The report highlights national trends from the 2012-13 school year, the most recent year for which federal nationwide data is available. Read More →

Group Launches ‘End Common Core’ Ballot Effort

A student works on math problems as part of a trial run of a Common Core linked test on Feb. 12, 2013. Activists and legislators who oppose Common Core are launching a campaign to put it to a vote on the 2016 Massachusetts ballot. (Patrick Semansky/AP)

Activists and legislators who oppose Common Core are launching a campaign to put it to a vote on the 2016 Massachusetts ballot. Their proposed ballot question would drop Common Core as the state's education standard and return to the standards Massachusetts previously developed and used.

"The purpose of the ballot question is to restore the previous standards we had in the state, the pre-Common Core standards," said Sandra Stotsky, former senior associate commissioner at the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, who's supporting the ballot effort.

The move comes as the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education considers whether to switch from the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) to the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) tests. Both systems are aligned to the Common Core standards. Read More →

Amid Concerns, Baker Says Chester Belongs ‘In The Conversation’ On PARCC

Mitchell Chester, Massachusetts commissioner of elementary and secondary education. (Peter Balonon-Rosen/WBUR)

Gov. Charlie Baker said Tuesday he doesn't see a need for Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester to recuse himself from the decision on whether to replace the MCAS standardized test with the new PARCC exams.

Chester has been criticized for chairing the governing board of the group that developed the PARCC exams while leading the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. The latest call for him to step out of the decision came Tuesday from the Boston-based Pioneer Institute, a free-market-focused think tank.

Baker, however, said he doesn't think Chester's position "renders him unable to participate in the conversation," in part because the decision, expected this fall, would ultimately be up to the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE). Chester's role is to make a recommendation to the board. Read More →

For Students With Disabilities, Transition From High School Brings Unique Challenges

The transition out of high school can be a challenging experience, especially for students with disabilities. (Jessie Jacobson/Flickr)

Any way you look at it, the end of high school is an emotional time: there's the elation of graduation, the bittersweet goodbyes to teachers and peers, and the creeping apprehension of closing the door on a familiar life and stepping into a new phase.

For the 6 million U.S. students diagnosed with disabilities, the transition out of high school can be a nerve-wracking and challenging experience.

It's what some educators and advocates call "falling off the cliff" -- when students, at age 22 or when they finish high school, lose entitlement to the special education services and support systems that have kept them afloat. Read More →