While John McDonough has been acting as interim superintendent upon the retirement of Carol Johnson, the system needs to find a permanent replacement to lead the Boston Public Schools. In the district’s search for a worthy candidate, students, teachers, and parents are looking for a say in who becomes the next superintendent.The Boston Student Advisory Council has very specific requirements for the new superintendent that we hope will not be overlooked by the mayor and the school committee. BSAC calls for a superintendent who: • Puts students first, is a diverse and culturally competent leader who reflects the BPS community, and promotes the campaigns that will make our schools more just and safe for students. • Promotes the funding and development of traditional public schools. He or she should support measurements for school, teacher, and student quality that do not rely on high stakes testings that can create stressful classroom environments and pressure teachers to “teach to the test.” • Supports the new Code Of Conduct that features a tiered system of progressive discipline and provides due process for students facing potential suspension or expulsion. • Creates quality partnerships for afterschool programming, youth jobs, and internships to enrich out-of-school time, provide safe spaces after school hours, and supply students with the skills they’ll need to succeed before and after graduation. • Ensures access to a diverse curriculum at every school, including honors and advanced placement classes, culturally relevant coursework, and SAT preparation. • Supports a student-driven, centrally administered grievance process by which students are able to report infractions that will be investigated by the central office.
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A recent article in the New York Times began: “Faced with mounting evidence that get tough policies in schools are leading to arrest records, low academic achievement and high dropout rates that especially affect minority students, cities and school districts around the country are rethinking their approach to minor offenses.” As teen advocates at the Boston Student Advisory Council have argued, the so-called “zero tolerance” policies for small stuff force kids out of classrooms and back to the street. This can lead to lower academic achievement and higher dropout rates. In the long run, students who are suspended or expelled from schools will have a harder time getting a job or going to college, and won’t receive necessary in-school counseling. This will only make it easier for gangs to recruit disengaged teens -- leading to far worse crimes than students were originally banished from classes for.
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School
Community service: A hard-and-fast requirement or given from the heart?
Serving the community is a crucial component for a healthy society. It is a civic duty. It is up to the people who live in these communities to make sure they are well nourished for years to come. Currently, many high schools are thinking about mandating community service as a graduation requirement. Many who do community service are motivated by altruism. Community service can be extremely valuable in the development of both character and academics, but the negative effects of forcing students to participate outweigh the benefits. When students are given a free choice to participate, they will be more likely to actually enjoy it. It molds you all around: mentally, intellectually, and maybe even physically. If students have this requirement forced upon them, they will lose the ethical understanding of what it truly means to serve the community.
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Is mandated community service really that bad? It is part of a school’s job to help students become better citizens. Community service exposes you to different viewpoints of the world. It is an excellent way to gain a range of skills. It bridges gaps between different types of people and preserves our neighborhoods. And it teaches the new generation about giving. If students already participate in community service, there must be something they find enjoyable about it. So why would a few more hours hurt?
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Community service is an activity most Americans do every day. It might not be as complex and large-scale as organizing a food drive or starting a non-profit sometimes it’s as simple as picking up a soda can on the street and placing it inside a trash can. It makes a difference. It’s within our human nature to help others; it comes naturally and the rewards are a lot more fulfilling. Forcing students to do it takes away from their moral values. It teaches them that you should serve your community because you will later be rewarded either by a grade or a college admission, rather than for the purpose of helping others and improving a community. Denying students who worked hard throughout their high school years a diploma because they failed to complete a certain number of community service hours is outrageous.
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