There’s been a lot of talk lately from the School Superintendent and some School Committee members about overcrowding in the Everett Public Schools. This has the feel of an intentional distraction from a much bigger issue: a steady decline in student learning, as evidenced by lower MCAS scores again. This is despite having an additional 71 teachers since Oct. 1, 2018, according to the Department of Elementary & Secondary Education (DESE).
A review of figures on the DESE website shows that student enrollment in the Everett Public Schools over the last 10 to 15 years, as recorded yearly on October 1, has remained remarkably steady. (While overall enrollment remains high, there was an actual decrease of 315 students when the October 1 figure in 2015 is compared to the 2021 figure.)
While it is true, as the Superintendent has stated, that the schools are now operating beyond their capacity to the tune of 1,204 students, that has roughly been the case for well over 10 years. Overcrowding is not news; worsening student performance is.
During most of the past 10 to 15 years, Everett students outperformed their peers in all neighboring communities, as comparisons of MCAS scores indicate. Our students used to get rave reviews while doing conspicuously better on MCAS than students in comparable, nearby communities. Even though it has been reported MCAS scores have declined across the state, Everett has seen a sharper decrease in comparison to their peers, even dropping below the Boston Public Schools for the past three years.
Besides overcrowding, the current school administration likes to highlight situations where there may be as many as 30 kids in a classroom. This is nothing new. And it usually results from students who are not fluent in English being assigned to classes with students who are fluent and do not need extra attention.
However, local school principals will tell you that such classes have two teachers, as well as various assisting paraprofessionals, assigned to them. Those principals will also tell you that schools with 30-student classrooms have classes at the same grade levels with 20 students or fewer.
Enough, Madame Superintendent, with the overcrowding talk! Please start telling us how you’re going to improve MCAS scores.