Hernandez needs to stay a citywide school

The implementation of the change from three zones to five zones in the Boston Public Schools [JP Gazette, May 15] will be disruptive to the Hernandez K-8 School on School Street in Egleston Square, will reduce par-ents’ choices and will increase inequity by concentrating the highest number of failing schools in communities of color, especially in proposed Zones 3 and 4. The proposal to grandfather children in their existing school without transportation, which could lead to shifting schools for 10,000 children in the fall of 2010, would be chaotic and unacceptable.

The Boston Public Schools has failed to provide a quality education to the vast majority of students who are Latino and English Language Learners (ELL). A recent report released by the Gaston Institute/Center for Collaborative Education on English Language Learning in Boston Public Schools talks about the marked increase in drop-out rates and referrals to special education among ELL students and the neglect of ELL students in regular education. It also describes the need for improved assessment; for a broader range of program options for ELL students; and for better communication with non-English-speaking parents. Limiting access to students to the only citywide, two-way bilingual program with a demonstrated track record of success and student achievement is not sound policy and will not close the achievement gap.

Lorena Ochoa, chair of the Hernandez parent council, has said, “This is not the time to dismantle a school that has a demonstrated track record of successfully educating both Latino students and students who are English Language Learners.” For example, the city-wide literacy committee analyzed spring 2007 English Language Arts (ELA) 7th-grade MCAS data and found that the Hernandez ranked first in writing in the city with an overall score of 74 percent. Boston Latin scored 72.4 percent, and Latin Academy scored 70.6 percent. In reading com-prehension, the Hernandez ranked third at 80 percent. Boston Latin had 84 percent and Latin Academy 81 per-cent. That same year, the 7th-graders scored fourth in ELA out of 464 middle schools in the state. For the past three years, all of the 6th-, 7th- and 8th-graders at the Hernandez have passed the ELA MCAS.

Until there are fully functioning, two-way bilingual programs in each of the proposed five zones, citywide access should be maintained. If the citywide status is eliminated, 56 percent of the current student popula-tion would no longer be provided transportation and may have to leave the school.

Principal Margarita Muñiz has said, “If you remove so many students and enroll new students who have not had access to a two-way bilingual education, it could be disastrous for our students and the program. We rec-ommend leaving the citywide status in place for at least five years, to allow the district time to replicate our successful model and phase it out gradually. Our school community is prepared to work with Eileen de los Reyes, assistant superintendent for English Language Learning, and the School Committee to ensure that effec-tive, high-quality bilingual schools are created.”

John Wortham
President, Friends of Rafael Hernandez School, Inc.
Egleston Square

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