In this area, of course, we have been doing some heavy lifting. Four years ago, we were on the brink of state takeover, and since then, the school administration has laid an extensive foundation for reform and renewal. And objective measures of success are appearing. The dropout rate has fallen to the lowest point in fifteen years, and last year, student test scores grew faster than the state average – a remarkable feat given the relative wealth of our community. The superintendant, her team, teachers, and the school committee deserve tremendous credit for setting the district on the right path.
There is still much work to do. As the district moves forward, it can’t lose sight of the building blocks of reform. Successful school systems have a culture of respect and high standards of personal conduct, where student safety is not even an issue. A positive school climate is a fundamental prerequisite to educational attainment. All the other improvements that are underway: more rigorous instruction, expanded learning time, new technological tools, and so forth, won’t be effective if classrooms are orderly and focused on learning.
The news of disruptive student behavior, or worse, at Keith Middle School, is very troubling. The problem is real, and it reflects poorly not just on Keith, but on the entire school district.
But more importantly, discipline problems should be in the rearview mirror by now. When it comes to discipline, the school administration must not take its eye off the ball. This is a solvable problem, and I say to parents out there the school committee expects it to be fixed. Your children will get the education they deserve – in the environment they deserve."