Three Everett schools, including the city’s 2,000-plus-student high school, have jumped an entire level in the state’s five-tier academic ratings because of continuing, significant improvements by students on standardized assessment tests. Everett High moved from Level 3 to Level 2 while both the Keverian and Webster Schools moved from Level 2 to Level 1.
The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education announced the upgrades last week and pointed out that all of Everett’s public schools are now rated at either Level 1 or Level 2.
With the upgrades, Everett joins a small group of urban, suburban and rural school systems where every school is either a Level 1 or a Level 2 performer.
The new rankings also evidence Everett’s high status among urban school districts. Everett is now one of only three urban districts where all schools are rated Level 1 or 2. The others are Cambridge and Revere.
“These latest state figures testify loudly and clearly to the quality and the effectiveness of the Everett Public Schools, and in particular the skill and professionalism of our teachers,” said Superintendent of Schools Frederick F. Foresteire. “Our educators have worked diligently to implement the programs and practices that are netting these impressive results.”
The people of Everett, he added, “can be confident that we are getting the job done for the advancement of our students, and that we are using our resources to the utmost.”
In 2010, Massachusetts enacted the Achievement Gap Act to help accelerate student achievement statewide. The law created an elaborate accountability system to ensure that all public schools are identifying areas where students may be lagging and taking concrete steps to improve performance in those areas.
Improvements have to be quantified through independent, state-sanctioned testing regimens, such as the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) and Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC).
The academic progress by students at Everett High School comes fairly early in the tenure of a new principal, Erick Naumann, who has been on the job for two years.
“Principal Naumann is a data-driven, hard-driving leader,” Mr. Foresteire said. “His leadership has obviously been a big factor in these improvements. Like all good educators, this principal is a big believer in accountability – for himself, as much as for others.”
Before taking the top job at Everett High, Mr. Naumann served as principal at Everett’s Parlin School for five years. During that period, student performance improved so dramatically that the Parlin rose to the top-performing school in the system.
Asked about the improving test scores that brought Everett High up to Level 2, Mr. Naumann said, “The credit belongs to the teachers. The school is successful, and is improving all the time, because of the high quality of our teachers. I cannot credit them enough, or thank them enough for their professionalism and their dedication.”
In Massachusetts today, only 10 public high schools have an enrollment higher than Everett High School’s. Of those 10, three are rated like Everett at Level 2: Lexington, Wachusett Regional, and Greater New Bedford Vocational Technical.
Said Mr. Foresteire, “This is something that deserves emphasis and repetition: Our students at Everett High are in the same category as a Lexington or a Wachusett, where the prevailing facts of economics and demographics are much different, and where the students enjoy privileges that are, let’s say, beyond the usual, everyday experiences of our kids.”
Mr. Foresteire noted that the average annual per pupil cost in Everett now stands at $13,117 — $1,401 below the statewide average of $14,518. By comparison, Cambridge is spending $27,163 per pupil per year and Somerville is spending $17,428.
Under the General Laws of the Commonwealth, Everett is considered a “Gateway City” and is accorded certain preferences by the state in its economic development and job creation policies. Typically, Gateway cities have a large number of households where English is not the primary language spoken and a large number of public school students are foreign-born. In Everett, for example, 59 percent of students live in a home where English is not the first language spoken.
“We have challenges that most Massachusetts communities do not face,” Mr. Foresteire said. “We’ve embraced those challenges and become very adept at educating newcomers, which has helped to make Everett a very dynamic and optimistic community — a place on the cutting edge of a fast-changing, opportunity-rich metropolitan area.”
In Everett, it is easy to find citizens, elected officials and community leaders who readily assert that the public schools are a “core part” of the city’s identity. Reflective of that positive situation, Mr. Foresteire is fond of declaring: “We are The Education City.”
Attesting to the attractiveness of life in Everett is the steady, yearly increase in the school-age population over the past decade or more. From 2005 to 2015, overall enrollment in the Everett schools increased from 5,354 to 7,259. It is expected to increase again in the next school year to upwards of 7,450 students. This is a big reason for the city’s strong housing valuations and robust local economy.
Summing up the factors that led to the state upgrades for Everett High, the Keverian School and the Webster School, Mr. Foresteire cited the “wonderful support always given to the schools” by Mayor Carlo DeMaria and “the astute, consistent, selfless and student-centered leadership” of the School Committee, currently chaired by Frank Parker. The Everett Public Schools also receive the tireless support of the City Council, and especially State Senator Sal DiDomenico, and State Rep. Joseph McGonagle.
“Simply stated, we would not be where we are today — on the path of continuous quality improvement — were it not for the support of the Mayor and the skill and hard work of the School Committee,” said Mr. Foresteire.
The School Committee convened in a special meeting Monday night at Everett High where the superintendent, various principals and school administrators presented an overview of the latest findings by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. The meeting marked the beginning of a series of detailed reports on the schools, which administrators have titled, “Measures, Milestones and Meanings.” The series will run through this school year and likely beyond.