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The Globe has launched a two-year initiative called The Great Divide to explore the deep inequalities in our public education system, examining both the challenges and possible solutions to creating equal opportunity for all students. This newsletter will update you on our investigative findings, with links to stories and other relevant information. If you know of anyone interested in this subject, tell them they can sign up for this newsletter here.
By Sarah Carr, Globe Staff
 

Devastating school district audit released


A scathing state review released Friday faulted the Boston school system for failing to address longstanding problems, such as lackluster classroom instruction in some schools and deficient programs for students with disabilities and language barriers. The shortcomings could be jeopardizing the education of tens of thousands of students. Check out our coverage here

Tracking the coronavirus’ impact on Boston’s kids


The list of Boston suburbs closing schools continues to grow: Cambridge, Brookline, Belmont, Concord, and many more. Boston mayor Marty Walsh said Friday morning that he has no plans to close the city’s public schools, however. (Education Week, by the way, has this immensely helpful interactive map tracking all school and district closures across the nation here.)
 
Complicating the decision for officials, particularly those overseeing schools with significant low-income populations, is that there is a strong public health rationale for closing: slowing the transmission of the virus. But there’s also a strong public health rationale for staying open. When schools close, it disproportionately affects the most vulnerable families: children who rely on the schools for breakfast and lunch; teenagers who live in homes without computers or reliable access to the Internet; parents who can’t afford to stay home from work to watch the kids. Read Globe columnist Jenee Osterheldt’s piece on the equity implications for low-income college students here.  

A growing number of states, including Maryland, Michigan, and New Mexico, are making the decision for their districts—opting for statewide closures. But Massachusetts’ leadership has left it largely up to local leaders to decide what to do. That’s concerned several mayors—and school leaders, too. 

Tom Scott, the executive director of the Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents, called the “guidance” released by the state on Friday: “Too little, too late.” 

As this all plays out in the coming weeks—and likely months—we’ll be following the equity implications for Boston families: Do those at schools that remain open have access to a school nurse? How are low-income parents managing—or not—when a child’s day care center closes? Are elderly relatives who step in to provide child care putting their own health at risk? Please reach out to us at thegreatdivide@bostonglobe.com with sources and stories.  
 
Priscilla Sanchez applied to Worcester Technical High School, but she did not get in. DAVID L. RYAN/GLOBE STAFF

 

Are the state’s vocational schools becoming too elitist?


Many of the state’s 37 vocational schools have come under fire recently for using their admissions criteria to screen out struggling students. Over the past two decades, the schools have been transformed from their blue-collar roots into high-tech training centers that prepare students equally for college or for well-paying jobs in the trades. Today, some are better funded than nearby public schools, and they have become increasingly selective in who they admit.

A growing number of activists and officials contend that vocational schools are taking advantage of the autonomy the state grants them to cherry-pick more academically prepared students with better discipline records.  Malcolm Gay has the full story
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The Valedictorians Project
Boston's top students from 2005 to 2007 set out to change the world. But then life happened.
ABOUT THE GREAT DIVIDE
The Great Divide builds on the findings of the Globe's Valedictorians Project in January, which revealed that even the best students in Boston public schools often struggle after high school. An editor and a team of four investigative reporters are 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

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