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By Felicia Gans, Globe Staff
The Globe's Great Divide team investigates the deep inequalities in our public education system, examining both the challenges and possible solutions to creating equal opportunity for all students. Anyone interested can sign up for this free newsletter here.
The latest from The Great Divide team

Independent study for 6-year-olds? Some Massachusetts districts are skirting instructional requirements for kids

When remote school started in Randolph a month ago, Yahaira Lopez hoped that it would keep her twin fifth-grade sons engaged in learning — and out of her hair — for most of the school week.

But that wasn’t happening.

On Tuesdays and Fridays, the twins had a packed schedule of teacher-led Zoom classes. But the other three school days began with a short prerecorded “Morning Message” from the teacher, who explained the day’s assignments and invited them to e-mail her with questions. Often, that greeting lasted less than five minutes, the assignments were easy and quick, and the kids turned to their Xboxes by mid-morning.

This school year, Massachusetts has reinstated its requirement — temporarily relaxed during the school closures of the spring — that public schools provide at least five hours of “structured learning time” every school day, on average. But interviews with a dozen parents, advocates, and experts reveal that districts vary widely on what constitutes remote learning time, and at least some are failing to live up to the spirit of the state’s requirement, depriving children of their right to a robust education.


-Naomi Martin, Globe Staff

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How does your child’s remote learning schedule look? Share it with us.
Yahaira Lopez tickled her 10-year-old son, Yassiah, while he took a break from remote learning in their Randolph home. (Erin Clark/Globe Staff)
Thousands of Boston public school students cut off from dental care

When school closed suddenly in March, Boston students not only lost the daily connection to teachers and learning, but dental services that the city’s most vulnerable children depend on for critical care.

That has left nearly 4,000 Boston public school students without an opportunity to see a dentist or hygienist in school this academic year, practitioners say, a significant concern given the strong correlation between poor oral health and learning loss and the risk of chronic illnesses.

-Meghan E. Irons, Globe Staff

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Judge denies Boston Teachers Union request to allow educators to work remotely when city’s virus rate is above 4 percent

A Suffolk Superior Court judge on Wednesday denied a request from the Boston Teachers Union for an injunction that would have allowed all educators to choose whether to work remotely while coronavirus positivity rates in the city exceed 4 percent.

Superior Court Judge Robert Gordon said the high-needs students who are currently attending school in-person would “suffer measurable deficits” if the district did an about-face and decided to conduct classes remotely. About 2,600 high-needs students have been attending classes in person — fewer than the district had initially expected — but all other students are learning at home.

-Felicia Gans, Globe Staff

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Boston parents square off over entrance exam proposal


Save the test. End racism.

Those were the dueling messages traded Sunday by parents, alumni, and others who made clear where they stand on a controversial proposal to eliminate for the next school year the test students must pass to enter one of Boston’s three prestigious exam schools.

-Gal Tziperman Lotan, Globe Staff

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School reopening news
We are tracking outbreaks, cases, and other coronavirus-related incidents affecting Massachusetts schools. See our tracker here.
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More about The Great Divide
The Great Divide builds on the findings of the Globe's Valedictorians Project, a Pulitzer Prize finalist that published in January 2019. The project revealed that even the best students in Boston public schools often struggle after high school. The Great Divide team is examining public education in the region, with humanity and empathy, and with a goal of provoking public discussion and exploring what might be done to fix core issues of inequality, social mobility, and economic opportunity. Please send ideas and suggestions to: thegreatdivide@globe.com.

Tell us what you want to see in our enhanced education coverage.

The Valedictorians Project
Boston's top students from 2005 to 2007 set out to change the world. But then life happened.

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