Tuesday, March 08, 2011 • 11:46 AM Comments (15)

Tosado Takes Aim at Drop-out Rate

posted by Maureen Turner

With the mayoral election eight months away, candidate (and City Council president) Jose Tosado has begun carving out his platform, with the city’s high drop-out rates topping the list.

Tosado points to state figures showing that Springfield students are failing to finish high school in alarming rates—he calls it a “catastrophic” trend. In the 2009-2010 school year, the city’s high school drop-out rate was 10.5 percent; by comparison, the statewide rate was 2.9 percent.

Among the cohort of students who would have graduated high school last year, only 53 percent of Springfield kids graduated within four years, compared to a statewide average of 82.1 percent. Springfield’s girls fared better than its boys, with 57.2 percent of girls, compared to 48.9 percent of boys, graduating on time. Only 46.4 percent of Hispanic kids graduated within four years, compared to 80 percent of Asian students, 61.5 percent of white students, and 55.2 percent of black students.

Within that cohort, one-third of Springfield Hispanic students (who account for 58.3 of the total school system population) dropped out, compared to 22.7 percent of black students, 21.5 percent of white students and 6.7 percent of Asians. Thirty-seven percent of kids with limited English proficiency dropped out.

The challenges faced by the city’s schools cannot be understated. According to state data, a staggering 84.2 percent of the city’s students come from low-income households (the statewide figure is 34.2 percent). Almost one-quarter don’t speak English as their primary language, and 14.1 percent are considered not proficient in English. More than 22 percent are classified as special education students.

This being an election year, of course, Tosado places a good chunk of the blame on his rival in this fall’s election, incumbent Mayor Domenic Sarno (who, by virtue of that position, also serves as chair of the School Committee). “Young people are dropping out at increasing rates. The trend is clear and catastrophic,” Tosado said in a recent campaign announcement. “But the current administration continues to see dropouts themselves as the problem, rather than as a symptom of a system that is broken. Until the root causes are addressed, nothing will change.”

Tosado vows a “transformative approach” to fixing the city schools, and cites the model of the celebrated Harlem Children’s Zone Project, which offers a range of programs for both kids (charter schools, after-school tutoring, leadership programs) and their families (health programs, parents’ education, credit counseling). “Tosado will use a ‘prenatal through college’ student-centered approach that anticipates every risk factor in order to keep kids on track,” according to his campaign. “This wrap around approach will require a realignment of resources and a degree of multi-sector collaboration the city has never seen.”

“‘Not my job’ will no longer be a legitimate excuse,” added the candidate, who vows that a “culture of accountability and performance … will pervade my entire administration.”

As for the guy currently in the mayor’s office? “Right now, what you see is a panicked attempt to produce short-term test improvements and stave off state take-overs,” Tosado charged of the current administration. “That’s not an environment where you’re likely to see smart approaches to long-term success. If long-term success is your goal, the challenges become things like language barriers, health disparities, violence, poverty, unemployment, and incarceration. That’s what the barriers are for real families in Springfield.”

Tosado’s announcement is short on details of just how to bring such as ambitious model as the Harlem Children’s Zone to Springfield. That project’s successes are due to a mix of political support, a dynamic leader (founder Geoffrey Canada, perhaps best recognized from an American Express commercial focused on the HCZ), and, last but not least, money. (Prince recently announced that he was donating $1 million to the project.) Pulling off such an effort successfully would also require an impressive coordination of many social service organizations—including those which now operate more as competitors than collaborators.

Could that model be duplicated, even on a smaller scale, in Springfield? Tosado, in his campaign materials, maintains it can: “The resources and services are already there. All that’s needed is commitment, leadership, and the courage to hold ourselves accountable.”

Comments (15)
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what a dreamer.

Posted by aaron on 3.8.11 at 19:23

What's a dreamer? I would have to say the dreamer is you. Would you rather pretend these problems don't exist and continue down the path of diminishing returns? I think a dreamer pretends that issues don't exist and then substitutes their own reality.

I feel that Tosado sees that there are no easy answers, and he's being man enough to step up to the plate, take an existing failure and make an attempt at fixing the problem from the root. He's not pretending that higher scores in tests means that the kids are doing fine. You can teach how to pass a test or you can teach them how to pass in life. Sarno obviously cares more about them passing their tests so he looks better right now, than making the necessary changes to have a profound impact on our children.

This is a failed system and if not for anything else that's wrong with the city, I would say this fact alone is why Sarno himself is a failure. Where is our pride as a city? This system as well as Mayor Sarno are flawed and are failing the children. So many other issues matter, but our school system is a glaring weakness that I would like to see a new approach on.

I'll have hope in a better future, and you can dream on Aaron.

Posted by Youngpolitico on 3.11.11 at 13:40

Well Mr. Smarty Pants,

Tosado is not the redeemer that you wish him to be. Sarno is not responsible for this mess. Dr. Ingram is paid a hefty amount to do someting and nothing has improved. When my children attended school here it was the cream de la cream system with accountability but because of forced cultrual changes the schools sank into abyss. We were faced with people who just do not care about education and you cannot teach those who wish not to learn. You need parental involvement and a strong desire to educate yourself. This is not Sarnos' fault it is the demand for this or that instead of values...................too many kids raising kids.........

Posted by aaron on 3.11.11 at 19:52

I agree whole heartedly that this is really an issue that is with the parents. Every individual has a responsibility to their children which does not have anything to do with the system. The issue is one that needs for our little society to wake up and realize that we are responsible, that we decide our own future.

That being said, people also need a wake up call to start to become part of that very same process. What about all the parents who are doing their part and have to deal with this exceedingly flawed system? What about a student like myself who graduated in 2003 with honors, having to deal with all the systematic issues I saw on top of what I needed to be worried of as a student. Do we just blame everyone else and act like it's not our problem? Like if Sarno as mayor isn't a member of the school committee by default and has a say in all of this? Like if as Mayor he doesn't feel the need to exceed more from a slick talker like Ingram?

Wether responsible or not, I could care less. He wanted this spotlight, he wanted this responsibility. Now he can deal with the voices of the people. Go to the streets, there is a quiet but passionate majority in this city that is starting to wake up to the lip service that has been given since as long as I can remember. Judge Tosado all you want, but he has obviously stepped outside of anything I have EVER seen by any candidate in the city of Springfield in terms of being so open about schools and the issues we are faced with. I have NEVER seen anyone in this city propose what this man is talking about. I for one want to give it a try, it's better than sticking my head in the sand and pretending if we keep going the course that things will eventually change.

You can't dispute the fact that the current administration has put the emphasis on scoring higher on tests now, without a REAL plan for long term success. (By that I mean one that the charlatan named Igram didn't put together) . I recall being the first class that had to pass the "dreaded" MCAS tests. Teachers and administration were running around like chickens with their heads cut off trying to cram us with information on how to pass. Whoever wanted to pay attention passed because they knew what the test was about, even still many still failed. In the end, my education was no better for it.

Whether it's his fault or not, no matter if he has his heart in the right place or not, I want a more qualified administration running our city. I feel we deserve more than sound bytes and ribbon cutting. I feel we deserve more than this. I think you deserve it too. I think putting emotions, and past histories aside we all know that for the city which man is the better choice. I know we all know who is more qualified. I also know the the elephant looming in the corner of the room, the fact that Sarno has the backing of the special interest groups that created and perpetuate the same situations we complain about should say enough.

We can go back and forth for eternity, but no matter if you consciously accept it or not, this is not ok. The series of events are not ok. The individuals in charge of are schools are sub par, Sarno and Ingram included, and this is my reality. This reality is shared by the same individuals that put their children on that bus every day, and the same teachers that have to be subjected to working in these conditions.

This time, not only am I hoping for a better future, but I am going to do my part for a better future. The children DESERVE better. Everyone else is entitled to their reality. A goal without a plan is just a wish, and I refuse to simply wish and dream on.

Posted by Youngpolitico on 3.13.11 at 16:20

I think the point is that even if improving MCAS is your goal, dealing with the root causes and "the whole child" (rather than desperate short-term band-aids) is the only thing that is going to produce results. But of course there are many additional kinds of achievement we'd like to see from our young people (leadership, creativity, science, languages, wellness, etc.).

Posted by Sweets on 3.13.11 at 17:33

Tosado can do nothing to change Ingram. That is a fact. He is chosen by commitee and has an iron clan contract. This mess started with Negroni and marched onto Burke. No one can clean this up in a couple of years and I believe it could take decades.

I blame the unions more than anything with there protections of BAD employees. Once unions were grand now the missue of dues for political gain is truely sickening. I am glad to see them fall. This will eventually allow good competition for supervisiors and teachers alike. When someone who is qualified cannot work somewhere without joining a union in I my eyes that is the worst form of discrimiation and while we at it. How about the police union...bust it and now!

Posted by aaron on 3.13.11 at 17:51

Antoinette Pepe for Mayor

Posted by aaron on 3.13.11 at 17:54

Emotions and good intentions will not win the race nor make this city a better place, my apologies to Antoinette.

The abuse by unions is a valid point, but the fact is that this new plan, as I have researched it, is very viable. Looking to learn from the mistakes and triumphs of other cities and their school systems is something I respect. This is the future and the longer we postpone it the worse it gets. We can play the blame game all day, but someone is out looking for solutions and I refuse to look the other way and not support it. It will take decades and the plan seems to be the first step. Just talking about it is better than saying "we can't." I'm tired of hearing we can't from people and certain powers that be or that things are ok like when Sarno tries to sweep our problems under the rug.

Do you think we should wait 4 years or more to start a plan that will take decades?

Do you think that protection of a few bad employees is where we should base our efforts when there is so much substantial positive work to be done?

Do you think Ingram is immune to the will of the people and the public outcry which may ensue?

I hear the rumblings, I say embrace change or we could be doomed to live the evolution of our current existence.

Posted by Youngpolitico on 3.13.11 at 19:13

The rumblings may be there but look what Negroni did and Burke and what it cost the city in real money. Again Sarno is not the major issue and no doubt he will win again. My "rumblings" see Antoinette having more backing than Tosado and please each took the same "donations" from the same people..no doubt Tosado is looking for the "union label" and believe me after the other union backings it is not looking good for him. Half the people I know in Springfield worked or now work for the school dept. The principals in many schools run a bad show but at the same time many are superior principals. Supervisors at $100,000 a year are making the schools top heavy and again all are protected by their unions. If you think things will change in a hurry good for you! Chances are I doubt it.

Posted by aaron on 3.13.11 at 19:40

Change happens quick only for the bold. Look at Egypt. If the youth and the truly disenfranchised take to the polls, you will see change. If the people who have been oppressed in this city wake up, namely latinos and the young working class, along with a few people who have been around the block enough to have seen the problems that the establishment has caused.

I predict fireworks this campaign season. What a time to be alive.

Posted by Youngpolitico on 3.13.11 at 22:01

Egypt and Yeman and Libya plus Saudi Arabia etc. have been a powder keg waiting to explode. Those that follow history and world politics know Obama was caught of guard . It was coming for a long long time and I for one am excited to see the end of this tyranny. This however has nothing to do with this conversation. I pray that we in Springfield can be civil and not as nasty as say Wisconson...Be careful what you wish for.............you may win a battle but not the war.

Posted by aaron on 3.13.11 at 23:00

Aaron, it seems like you keep throwing mud hoping that something sticks, i agree with politico, no matter what you say the situation is not acceptable. We as a city need to do better, and the same does not mean better. I'm not one to lay blame, but those who wish to be in the limelight ultimately must correct it or be replaced with someone who can. Maybe no one can do it perfectly that we have in front of us, but realistically we have a better chance with a breath of fresh air. We need a new perspective. I also doubt politico meant change with violence based on how he presented this, I think you are looking for a way to save face in this online debate. He stated "if the youth and truly disenfranchised take to the POLLS, you will see change." How is that comparable to the situation in Wisconson? For once since I moved here with my children in the early 90's I have hope that we will see some real change.

Posted by Katie413 on 3.15.11 at 16:52

I will say that I was refering to Wi. in that people behaved badly in order to win and they lost. It is my opinion(which I am entitled to by the consitution). In the the first post by political it is quite clear he/she has a split personality. ...he/she changes tone and makes some sense in later posts...I do not need to save face..voters will do that for me...I respect your desire for change but I am not sure what you want......Good luck and it would be nice to know what the hell you want.

Posted by aaron on 3.15.11 at 17:18

Someone doesn't like being questioned I see. You are entitled to your opinion, you're also entitled to not offer any real rebuttals to any of the points which were brought up. Are you running for office or are you stating that you believe that most voters agree with you? Politico is a word in spanish, and is masculine, so he is a man, he states he graduated in 2003 so he's about 25 years old. I think it's pretty obvious what he wanted because I could understand it well enough to agree, and I think I'm a pretty intelligent woman with a Masters in Psychology. I know what the "hell I want" and it's definitely not an interaction with an internet muck raker. If you are an aspiring politician, your behavior is unbecoming of a council member. Your thought process is not organized and you've been shooting from the hip from the start, consider this a free consultation.

Posted by Katie413 on 3.15.11 at 20:24

katie/politico I think you are in need of your own services.(if you think anyone thinks you have a degree you are nuts)

Posted by aaron on 3.22.11 at 20:52



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