Letter: The full story of BART needs to be told

'Full story' of BART needs to be told

To the editor:

In her letter to the editor of Jan. 19, BART Trustee Diane Cutillo claims that Dr. Martin Luther King would be proud of BART. She provides statistics establishing the racial and economic diversity of the student body. She points to MCAS scores as the reason that the charter school has received praise from Gov. Baker and a high ranking among the public schools of the commonwealth. In 2015, all of BART's sophomores (20) scored either Proficient or Advanced for the second time in the school's history.

Ms. Cutillo writes, "The full story of how BART has achieved its academic distinctions, including the U.S. News and World Report's No. 7 ranked high school in Massachusetts, is one for another day." I would very much appreciate knowing the "full story."

When BART first opened, its students' MCAS scores were among the lowest in the county. The school put "programs" into place to drive those scores up. My recent conversations with BART students confirm that they spend a great deal of time practicing and preparing for their high-stakes tests.

It should also be noted that some BART students depart to attend neighboring schools. Perhaps Ms. Cutillo could shed some light on the reasons for and the timing of these departures. Do students tend to leave BART before they take their sophomore MCAS test or after?

I recently spoke to an English teacher who worked in a charter school in New York State. She explained that unproductive students in that school were strongly encouraged to leave so that their high- stakes test scores would not be factored into the school's "report card." She also described a time-consuming and rigid process and schedule that she was required to follow to prepare her students for their big test. Her former school relied heavily on those test scores to attract more students and more money.

Of course, it would be unfair to assume that all charter schools operate in the same way or that BART's extensive MCAS preparation is unique. Still, it would be interesting to examine the record of BART's student departures to see if there is a pattern. Perhaps Ms. Cutillo would provide that data as part of "the full story." She writes that the school's leaders, teachers and staff believe that "every" student at BART can succeed. I wonder if that same belief extends to BART students who go elsewhere.

As to the claim that Dr. King would be proud of BART's achievement, he would probably be pleased with the diversity of the student body, but he might be hesitant to judge the quality and ranking of BART or any other school on the basis of one test. That kind of generalization might make him uncomfortable since many MCAS proponents publicly argue that the test is flawed and requires replacement.

Edward Udel, Dalton


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