|“I guess we’re doing just fine even without integration.”
Before the 1954 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education, racial segregation in public schools was cited as the reason for the disparity in education achievement. The opinion in that case suggested that racial integration in the classroom was essential to academic achievement. However, the enormous success of local charter schools indicates that racial juxtaposition might not be as crucial as some had thought.
The extraordinary academic results of the Edward W. Brooke Charter School indicates the truth of the declining significance of race as the most important factor determining academic success. According to the Brooke School, “the number one predictor of academic achievement in the United States is not race. It’s not solid-economic status. It’s teacher quality.”
One hundred percent of the Brooke’s 7th and 8th grade students scored advanced or proficient in the 2010 English and Math MCAS tests. Among white students across the state, only 79 percent and 84 percent did that well on English and Math. Only 1 percent of the Brooke students are white — 76 percent are black and 21 percent are Hispanic. More than half of the students are financially eligible for free lunch.
This record of achievement is repeated at other successful charter schools. The student body at Roxbury Prep is all black or Latino. Their 8th grade students scored well on the 2010 MCAS — 82 percent in Math and 93 percent in English at the proficient/advanced level.
At the Match School, 100 percent of the 10th grade students scored proficient or advanced in English and 99 percent scored at that level in Math. The student body is 63 percent black and 30 percent Latino. Only 4 percent of the students are white.
The evidence is now clear. While racial segregation should be unconstitutional, racial integration in the classroom is not essential for the academic success of black students. The Brooke School, Roxbury Prep and the Match School have developed pedagogies that are very effective with black and Latino students. The challenge is to incorporate those programs into Boston’s public schools.
As the Brooke School has pointed out teacher quality is most important for academic achievement. Let us not lose sight of the negotiations for the new Boston teachers’ contract. We must be certain that the work rules enable public school teachers to perform as well as teachers in the high performance charter schools.
With health insurance costs rising, there is understandably a great concern about excessive expenses. This attitude fired the public criticism over directors of insurance companies being paid fees. The rationale was that since trustees or directors of universities and hospitals are not paid, neither should those performing a similar function in insurance companies.
However, unlike universities and hospitals, health insurance companies are directly competitive. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, Tufts Health Plan, Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, and to some extent Fallon Community Health Plan are all pursuing the same customers. In any situation, one will win and the others will lose. Such circumstances require intensive oversight from the Board.
Each organization must decide the appropriate qualifications and fees for its directors. However, it does seem that the health industry, like banking and Wall Street, has moved toward compensation inflation. Competition has pushed health insurance companies in that direction.
The U.S. must find more efficient and less costly ways to provide universal health care. However, insurance companies are forced to compete under the existing rules of the game until the better solution is found and adopted.