Colleges will have to collaborate more with Boston public schools if the district is to increase high school graduation rates and send more seniors to college, a challenge both parties’ top administrators discussed Thursday night at Boston College.
Boston Public Schools superintendent Carol Johnson, BC administrator Maria Brisk and BC education professor Mary Walsh spoke about college programs’ success in educating Boston’s high school students in disadvantaged communities.
Johnson spoke about the current state of Boston public schools and emphasized the need for colleges to get involved with the progress of high school students.
‘There is a great deal of fragmentation and BPS has not had a good infrastructure to support various programs,’ she said.
Johnson said educators need to focus on programs like Outreach, Boston Connects and Step UP, which encourage high school students to go to college. All of these programs work on establishing a relationship between Boston colleges and Boston public high school students to encourage them to go to college and dream big.
‘Even when teachers do all the right things, even when parents do all the right things, students don’t always make the right choices,’ she said. ‘Youth leadership helps build the right vehicle to achieve excellence.’
Brisk said she is attempting to teach future educators the importance of language in the classroom through various workshops and programs.
In order to decrease high school dropout rates, Brisk said educators need to introduce appropriate English programs at the grade school level.
‘We can’t teach a language until we respect the languages that children already speak at home,’ she said.
Brisk said children are classified as being limited by English at an early age, and educators need to establish an environment in which children are comfortable with learning.
‘Children should be engaged regardless of their language proficiencies,’ she said.
The first teachers that these children had were their parents, Brisk said.
‘We can’t teach language until we respect the languages that children speak at home,’ she said.
Subsequently, Walsh spoke about the non-academic needs of students in public schools, which have been somewhat mitigated through the Boston Connects program.
The Boston Connects program aims to address the achievement gap, ameliorate barriers to learning and promote healthy development. Boston Connects does this by placing coordinators at 12 participating Boston schools and creating a student support team to provide targeted support for each student.
BC senior Lauren Seaman said she volunteered for College Bound, Step UP and Connect.
‘The public schools were quite receptive,’ she said.