City council re-examines off-track student services

Roxbury Preparatory Charter School in Mission Hill

By Cole Schoneman
BU News Service

The Boston City Council said it will re-examine Boston Public Schools’ (BPS) strategies to serve “off-track” students, after a report published in May found more than 3,000 high school students in the BPS system are off-track to graduate.

As a result, the council’s Education Committee has set a new goal — to pressure BPS to focus resources on reaching out to off-track students and to make an exception for older students at schools like Boston Adult Technical Academy (BATA).

Students who are more than two years behind in accumulated credits are considered off-track, according to City Councilor and Education Committee Chair Annissa Essaibi-George.

“These are students that have fallen behind due to systematic failures of our education system,” said Essaibi-George at an Oct. 1 committee hearing.

The report, published by EY-Parthenon, found directly reaching out to students who have dropped out or are chronically absent is the most effective way to improve graduation rates.

Essaibi-George said this practice has not been enforced because off-track students are generally clustered in a small number of schools with insufficient funding.

Students and faculty also spoke out at the meeting against a recently enacted policy at BATA. Many off-track students enroll at BATA to complete their high school education because they are too old to stay in public high school. But BPS enacted a policy in November of last year to expel students on the day of their 22nd birthday in an effort to cut costs.

Garceline Champagne, a first-generation American who attended BATA, said she now teaches English at the school and strongly opposes the new age-restriction policy.

“About 80 percent of our student population are recent immigrants into the country,” Champagne said. “We believe our students deserve the resources they need to succeed with us and beyond.”

One such recent immigrant, Erickson, who chose not to provide his last name, is a 21-year-old student at BATA.

“I wish to get my high school diploma and go to college to study education,” Erickson said. I don’t want to give up on my dreams because of my age.”

Council President Andrea Campbell said she is optimistic for the future but expects more concrete plans from BPS going forward.

“We requested actual plans from BPS but we got a presentation,” Campbell said. “They did speak to a working group that is established and so the goal is to push them to be more transparent … with who is in that working group and what the plan looks like that is going to come from them.”

Councilor Kim Janey expressed frustration at the generally slow process of action to aid students.

“Ten years ago we had a similar report, similar findings,” Janey said. “I don’t want us to be in the same place 10 years from now.”

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