Sometimes you find the answers to intractable problems in the faces of motivated 14-year-olds.
I had the opportunity yesterday to visit the MATCH Charter Public School in Boston, a 10-year-old educational institution dedicated to preparing inner-city students to succeed in college and beyond. Unseen amid the political debate over the future of education, MATCH and other schools are writing extraordinary stories about the ability of results-based schools to provide opportunity and hope for young people who most need it.
We toured the high school with three of the people writing that story – Founder Michael Goldstein, Teacher Training Program Director Orin Gutlerner, and Trustee Robert Manning.
Ninth graders were already in class at the Commonwealth Avenue high school campus yesterday as the mid-summer temperature reached into the mid-80s. Half a dozen students in an English class were in the middle of an animated discussion about the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia. Summer classes are a regular part of the curriculum for incoming high school students.
MATCH High School opened its doors in 2000 and MATCH Middle School opened in Jamaica Plain in 2008. Sixty-three percent of the students are African-American, 30 percent are Hispanic, 3 percent are Asian and 4 percent are White. Three quarters live in poverty, and many come from single-parent or no-parent homes with no history of college attendance. They are, in short, the kind of high-risk students who normally show up in dropout statistics as shorthand for the failures of the education system.
Here’s the record at MATCH:
- Ninety-nine percent of the first seven graduating classes - 2004 through 2010 - were accepted into four-year colleges. Together they received approximately $2.75 million in four-year need-based grants and $800,000 in four-year loan commitments. Their selections included Boston College, Brown, Dartmouth, Duke, Georgetown, Notre Dame, Smith and Spelman College.
- Every MATCH tenth grader scored advanced or proficient on the 2009 MCAS math exam, the best performance among the 341 school districts in Massachusetts.
- The school ranked fourth statewide on both the MCAS English and MCAS biology exams.
- Newsweek magazine recently named MATCH 49th on its list of the top high schools in the nation.
Perhaps more impressive is the fact that MATCH has built an infrastructure to develop top-quality teaching talent. The school runs an Urban Education Fellowship called MATCH Corps that brings recent graduates of elite college and universities to spend a year tutoring and providing academic support to the students at MATCH. Alumni of the MATCH Corps go on to teach not only at MATCH, but at charter schools throughout Massachusetts and the nation.
“Every day, we do what many consider impossible - we bring together idealistic, dedicated college graduates and hard-working, disciplined urban teenagers. We have created a program that allows MATCH students to achieve what so many consider impossible: success in college and beyond for low-income, urban youth,” the school says.
The success of MATCH Charter Public School should encourage employers who have supported charter schools as well as the broader idea that all educational institutions must respond to the same measures of success or failure that drive businesses. The stakes are enormous, both for the young people and for the economic future of the commonwealth.
MATCH and other schools hold the key to bridging the chasm between the knowledge economy and the bright, young people we must prepare to drive that economy. I certainly feel better about that challenge than I did two days ago.