The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, May 1, 2009

Regional School Committee hears METCO update

The Regional School Committee (RSC) learned about recent developments in the METCO program when Director Kim Bovell and two participating students spoke during the RSC meeting on April 14. Briana Bigby, a senior from Roxbury, and McCall Cruz, a senior from Boston, both said they had felt welcomed at the high school. Bigby has been in the program since first grade. Cruz had only been at CCHS for two years and said, “I really enjoy it here.”

For over 40 years, students from Boston have had the opportunity to attend both the Concord-Carlisle Regional High School (CCHS) and Concord Public Schools through the auspices of the Metropolitan Council for Educational Opportunity (METCO) program. The goal of the program is to provide disadvantaged urban students with a better education and to bring racial diversity to suburban schools. The program includes 31 participating suburban school districts. “Concord is one of the largest participating districts,” according to Bovell.

State covers part of cost

Bovell said the program has been partially funded by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education since 1967. Last year’s budget was roughly $548,000. The state gives the districts approximately $4,000 per METCO student, less than the amount allotted for school choice and charter school students. Superintendent Diana Rigby said it cost $17,000 per year to educate a student at CCHS. The regional school district is making up the difference.

Bovell said that METCO funds pay for staff, which consists of one K-8 counselor and four bus monitors who double as tutors. There are two tutors at CCHS. In addition to the 2:10 p.m. bus back to Boston, there is also a 3:30 p.m. bus and a 5:15 p.m. bus so students can find teachers after school and also participate in sports and other activities after school. Bovell said, “Kids used to only be involved in sports. Now they are getting involved in more things. They are venturing out.”

79 METCO students at CCHS

In September, 2008, 194 METCO students were enrolled. However, for a host of reasons, there are now 183 METCO students in the K-12 system. CCHS has 79 METCO students, 21 of whom will graduate this June. There are 15 METCO students in Concord’s eighth grade. Bovell said she will attempt to enroll seven to ten new METCO students into the high school so that the number of METCO students does not decrease at CCHS.

Academic, social and transportation supports

There is a two-day freshman orientation program, where the first day is for students and their parents. All incoming kindergartners will attend a summer program/camp in Concord. This allows them to adjust to the bus ride and the school setting. In addition, each METCO student is initially hosted by a Concord (or Carlisle) family via the Family Friends Council Program. The Concord home is their home away from home. Bovell pointed out that this program works better for elementary students than older students. As students get older, they prefer to pick their own friends. The council puts together a number of events where Boston and Concord (or Carlisle) families can get together.

Bovell said they are working hard to reduce the achievement gap with mentoring and several programs. There is an afterschool tutorial program four days a week and the Ujima Scholars Program provides tutorial assistance, academic advising and mentoring opportunities and possibilities of rewards. An MCAS Biology Prep Class and an SAT Prep Class are also available to CCHS METCO students. In addition to programs, the METCO, Inc. Office in Boston provides further tutoring services, counseling and psychological services, summer school placements and workshops for parents and students on financial aid and career planning.

College placements

Bovell then listed the colleges attended by members of the CCHS METCO Class of 2008. Some of these are: Delaware State, Arizona State, University of Hartford, Florida Institute of Technology and Bunker Hill Community College.

The Boston Globe recently published an article about where METCO graduates go to college, (see The Globe, March 8, 2009) pointing out that a much higher percentage of METCO students go to two-year colleges than their suburban peers and those going to four-year schools do not go to top-tier colleges. RSC member Jan McGinn asked Bovell what the reasons were that CCHS METCO students were not going to top-tier colleges. “Is it strictly a financial decision? Is it an academic decision?” She wondered if these students were not being encouraged like their peers.

Bovell said the Guidance Department does much to ensure that students attend the schools they want to go to. They also give workshops for parents. She added that the financial responsibilities are an issue. Bovell pointed out that these students are the first to go to college in their families. Also, she pointed out that some 2007 METCO graduates went to Brown and Syracuse Universities.

Program enhancements

For the future, Bovell plans to restructure the mentoring program, improve the freshman orientation program, offer additional college planning sessions to students and parents and do more outreach to parents. Her theme is “METCO works.” ∆

© 2009 The Carlisle Mosquito