A report by the Boston Opportunity Agenda, a local education partnership, details the troubling status quo of Boston Public Schools. Boston, for more than 10 years, has resisted adopting the Massachusetts Recommended Core Curriculum, known as MassCore.
MassCore is intended to align high school coursework with college and employment expectations, according to the Massachusetts Department of Education. The program mandates four units of English, four units of mathematics, three units of lab science, three units of history, two units of the same foreign language, one unit of the art and five additional “core” courses.
Yet Boston’s graduation requirements are not nearly as comprehensive. The school system requires only three years of math and two semesters of physical education, for example.
BPS has consistently ranked among the top-performing large public school districts in the country, according to a report by Bellwether Education Partners. Still, Boston schools face major challenges, including small budgets, old facilities and achievement gaps along racial, ethnic and linguistic lines.
The comparable advantage BPS has over other similarly sized school districts is narrowing, and the district will not be able to improve unless it changes its current standards to be more rigorous.
BPS students would be much better served by MassCore’s more full-bodied requirements.
By successfully completing MassCore standards, students are much more likely to pursue a postsecondary degree. Ninety percent of Boston high school graduates who completed MassCore requirements enrolled in postsecondary education, and 66 percent completed their college studies, according to the Boston Opportunity Agenda report.
By increasing the number of students who complete MassCore and take one or more AP classes, BPS would improve the likelihood its students complete a four-year college degree. But only 31 percent of BPS students completed MassCore in the 2017-18 school year.
Some BPS officials have worried that MassCore’s more intensive curriculum could lower high school graduation rates, according to The Boston Globe. But college admissions officers view high school GPAs in the context of high school rigor, and what’s more, GPAs are not the only indicator of high school success.
Any argument against improving education standards because it would make school harder is counterproductive and, quite frankly, goes against what ought to be the purpose of secondary education. School systems should always push their students to perform better.
Matching pre-existing state standards would not be extreme — it would be sound and lawful.
Not everybody needs to go to college, but everybody needs to have a good level of education. Four years of math and English is not necessary for everyone, and in these cases, vocational alternatives should be widely available and encouraged.
But many colleges require three to four years of these academic subjects, including Boston University.
If BPS wants to truly improve its students’ opportunities, they must adopt statewide standards. They have already proven to help students be better prepared for college.