Engineering school

A 10th grade girl who’d moved from Jamaica to Boston was bored with the undemanding science and math classes at her low-performing high school. When the superintendent asked for ideas for small, autonomous high schools, Alafia Spencer suggested an engineering school that would offer advanced classes and let students take university classes. The Boston Globe reports;

In September, The Engineering School will open in Hyde Park — which has one of the city’s most struggling high schools — exposing Boston public school students for the first time to civil engineering and architecture, computer-integrated manufacturing, and biotechnical engineering.

Spencer, who also is captain of the track team, overcame the resistance of teachers pushing social justice, business and health themes.

One told her that teachers, not students, should be driving the proposals because teachers would be affected most by the changes.

”Her telling me that, that only pushed me more,” Spencer said.

She lives with her single mother, a high school drop-out, who works as a babysitter. She wants to go to MIT. Should be a shoo-in.

About Joanne


  1. A teacher told her that teachers would be most affected by these changes? Teachers? Not the students? Shouldn’t improving learning opportunities for students be the focus of any school change?

    There are a great many wonderful teachers out there. However, it is always sad to be reminded that there are also teachers who seem to forget the purpose of their profession.

  2. Walter E. Wallis says:

    The NEA better not hear about this apostacy.

  3. dhanson wrote:

    Shouldn’t improving learning opportunities for students be the focus of any school change?

    If you’re really at loose ends and can’t think of anything else to do, go to a school board meeting. You’ll quickly be disabused of that notion.

    What you’ll see is an agenda clogged with issues that have everything to do with the running a large organization and precious little to do with education. The lack of accountability for educational outcomes means that staffing, financial, organizational, support, legal and myriad other issues have precedence over educational outcomes. Education is dealt with by inference if it’s dealt with at all.

  4. Steve LaBonne says:

    Allen got that right. In the latest issue of the NY Review of Books there is a fascinating essay by a retired Boston U. professor on his experience serving on a small-town Vermont school board. He says exactly what Allen just said, and also details his gradual, horrified discovery that neither at the local nor state levels does there exist anything that could reasonably be described, even with the maximum possible generosity, as a curriculum. He reprints samples of the horrible edu-gobbleygook that occupies the places where a curriculum ought to be.

  5. Thanks Steve. The essay Steve’s referring to is by Roger Shattuck, “The Shame of Schools” and isn’t available on-line except by purchase. Don’t those New York Timies know that information wants to be free?

    Dhanson, you want to know what the really awful thing about the situation with regard to school boards is? The truly terrible thing is that most school board members really would like to have good schools.

    It’s an elective position of course so a school board member’s qualifications consist of getting elected which doesn’t necessarily tell you anything about them.

    A few are just ego-driven punks who no reasonable person would put in charge of a gold fish let alone a school district. Most though are fairly decent people who like to see education happen. They work to get elected hoping, feeling certain, that they can make a difference. Yet somehow all the more immediately pressing matters push questions of educational efficacy to the rear. After a while the question of education quality elicits exasperation and guilt but no action because there’s just so many other things that need doing just to keep the schools working.

  6. Matthew Tabor says:

    Shattuck is one of the most poignant, exacting scholars I’ve encountered. If you like his piece in the Times, check out his book “Forbidden Knowledge” if you haven’t already. Excellent scholarship.

  7. Jack Tanner says:

    ‘A teacher told her that teachers would be most affected by these changes? Teachers? Not the students? Shouldn’t improving learning opportunities for students be the focus of any school change?’

    My kids go to the Boston public schools and because of busing they start the elementary schools at different times. Every 5 years if you’re an early school you switch to a late school and if you’re a late school you switch to an early opening. Now they’re going to delay the switch because of some other reasons due to school assignments. My wife and I were at a meeting at the school hosted by the principal and my wife asked if the parents would be able to vote on a switch. The principal laughed and said that it would be up to the teachers and the administration. The message is your schedule doesn’t matter but mine does.